US and Israel officials held secret talks last week on a “plan B” for Iran if negotiations to revive the nuclear deal do not resume, Axios reported on Wednesday.
The talks were led by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata. Earlier this year, the US and Israel revived a strategic dialogue on Iran between the two nations’ security councils. Last week’s talks were the first time the group was convened since Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet replaced Benjamin Netanyahu.
An Israeli official told Axios that Israel wants the US to move forward with a “plan B” since nuclear deal talks have been stalled since June 20th. The alternative plan the Israelis would like to see would involve more sanctions on Iran, although the Biden administration has implemented a few rounds of Iran-related sanctions in recent months.
An Israeli official told Walla News that during the meeting, the US conveyed to Israel if talks don’t resume soon, the US will impose even more sanctions on Iran. US sanctions have decimated Iran’s economy, and Washington is now eyeing measures that would disrupt Tehran’s oil trade to East Asia, which has been a vital lifeline for the country.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz hinted that Israel is working on a “plan C” that involves military action against Iran, and the Israeli Defense Forces have said they are “accelerating” plans to attack Iran. The Israelis frequently take covert action against Iran, which Bennett has vowed his government will continue.
While the Israelis are eager for the US to explore other options, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that nuclear talks will resume in “a few weeks.” Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has signaled he’s ready to return to the table if the negotiations bring Iran sanctions relief. The question is if President Biden is willing to lift enough sanctions that would give the Islamic Republic enough economic relief.