Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat met with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington on Tuesday after talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna, something Israel is strongly opposed to.
In a readout of the meeting, the White House said Sullivan updated the Israelis on the Vienna talks and “emphasized strong US interest in consulting closely with Israel on the nuclear issue going forward.” The US side also agreed with Israel’s claim that Iran poses a “threat.”
“The United States and Israel agreed on the significant threat posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region, and US officials underscored President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” the White House said.
Since the Vienna talks started earlier this month, Israel has shown its objection through covert action, including an attack at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and attacks on Iranian ships in the region. While the US has attempted to distance itself from the Natanz blast, no US officials have denounced it publicly. Affirming Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Iran in the wake of these incidents is a tacit endorsement of Israel’s covert actions and certainly sends the wrong signal to Tehran.
The White House also said the US and Israel agreed to set up a “working group” to discuss Iran’s drones and missiles. It’s not clear what exactly this group would do, but the Israelis have long called for a stricter nuclear deal that addressed Iran’s ballistic missiles.
Over in Vienna, Iran held the third round of talks with the remaining JCPOA participants; China, Russia, the UK, France, and Germany. A US delegation is also in the city and participating indirectly in negotiations with Iran through European intermediaries.
Representatives from China and Russia said the parties were trying to “expedite” the process to revive the agreement.
Iranian officials are ready to return to the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA if the US lifts all Trump-era sanctions. But because the Biden administration is not willing to do so, the process is being dragged out. The US and Iran are currently negotiating what sanctions Washington is willing to lift.