Tensions are rising between the Israeli government and the Biden administration over talks that have been ongoing in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, according to a report from Axios.
The US and Israel have been holding strategic talks on Iran policy through a forum headed by each country’s national security advisor. Israeli officials told Axios that during recent talks, Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat felt the US is not showing “sufficient consideration” of Israel’s position regarding diplomacy with Iran.
The Israeli officials said that the US side raised concern over the fact that Israel was carrying out operations against Iran without fully consulting the US. Earlier this month, an attack at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was attributed to Israel, which was a clear attempt to sabotage the Vienna talks. Before that, an Iranian ship was attacked in the Red Sea, which was also attributed to Israel.
But the Israeli officials said the US was informed of “recent operations.” One official said: “It was not a surprise for the Americans.” It’s not clear if the US had prior knowledge of the Natanz attack, but it is likely. The US tried to distance itself from the incident and claimed it was not involved, but the Biden administration failed to publicly condemn the dangerous attack.
The Israelis claim the Biden administration hasn’t been fully transparent with Israel over the proposals it is making in Vienna. A group of senior Israeli officials is expected to travel to Washington next week to lobby the US on Iran, including Ben-Shabbat, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, and Yossi Cohan, who heads Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
According to a report from Israeli TV on Tuesday, the Israelis have accepted that there won’t be any significant changes to the Iran deal and are narrowing their demands. The report said the officials traveling to Washington next week are expected to push President Biden to ask for the International Atomic Energy Agency to have more powers in Iran.
The fact that the Israelis are frustrated with the US and backing down on some demands is a good sign that President Biden might be close to returning to the JCPOA. On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke positively of the talks and said about “60 to 70 percent” of the issues have been resolved in Vienna, adding a deal could be reached in “little time.”
While the progress in Vienna appears to be positive, the Biden administration could restore the JCPOA at any time by lifting sanctions on Iran that were reimposed after the US withdrew from the deal. But US officials have signaled they are not willing to lift all Trump-era sanctions, which complicates the process and is dragging out the talks.