CIA Director William Burns held talks in Israel Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other officials amid heightened tensions with Iran. Israeli officials have been calling for international action against Iran over the attack on the Israeli-linked tanker Mercer Street, although Tehran insists it was not responsible for the incident.
In a statement on the meeting with Burns, Bennet’s office said Iran was a priority of the discussion. “The two discussed tightening intelligence and security cooperation between Israel and the US, the situation in the Middle East, especially Iran,” the statement said.
Burns also met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, David Barnea. On Twitter, Gantz said he presented Iran-related intelligence to Burns. “I presented my American partner with intel regarding Iranian aggression in the region & its nuclear program,” he said.
The US has joined Israel in blaming Iran for the Mercer Street attack, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for the world to hold Iran “accountable.” Bennett has threatened that Israel could “act alone” against Iran if other countries don’t want to take action.
Israel frequently takes action against Iran covertly by attacking Iranian ships, assassinating scientists, and planting explosives at Iranian nuclear facilities. When Barnea was sworn in as Mossad chief in June, he hinted these covert attacks would continue, warning Iran’s nuclear program “will continue feeling Mossad’s might.”
When denying responsibility for the Mercer Street attack, Iran called out the West for its hypocrisy for never condemning Israel’s aggression. Similarly, the US never mentions that Israel has a secret nuclear weapons program while constantly accusing Iran of racing to develop a bomb.
During his trip to the region, Burns is expected to visit the West Bank and meet with Palestinian Authority officials. Gantz said he and Burns discussed the need for the US and Israel to strengthen the PA.