According to a report from Axios, on Tuesday, US and Israeli officials will convene the second meeting of a strategic group to coordinate on Iran. The talks are headed by each country’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan for the US side, and Meir Ben Shabbat for the Israelis.
The first meeting of the strategic group took place in early March. The second comes as the US and Iran are engaged in indirect talks to revive the nuclear deal, something Israel is strongly opposed to and is taking covert action to sabotage the effort.
An attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility over the weekend was attributed to Israel’s Mossad spy agency by Israeli media, and Iran blamed the Israelis on Monday. Last week, an Iranian ship was targeted with an explosive in the Red Sea.
The idea of the strategic group is for Israel to convey its objections to the US rejoining the JCPOA at the advisor level, so ties between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are not strained. But Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials continue to make their opposition to a revival of the JCPOA clear despite the strategic group.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday. On Monday, Gantz said he told Austin that any future nuclear agreements with Iran must be “more robust” and have no “expiration dates.”
“We believe the old agreement was not a good enough agreement, that there needs to be more pressure on Iran and to reach an agreement without expiration dates and with wider and unrestricted oversight abilities,” Gantz said.
The Israelis claim that because the JCPOA has an expiration date, it is a path to a nuclear-armed Iran. But that ignores the fact that Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it would still be bound by after the JCPOA. Israel, on the other hand, refuses to sign the NPT since it has a secret nuclear weapons program.