National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hosted his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata in Washington on Tuesday to discuss Iran. In the meeting, Sullivan conveyed to Hulata that the US is prepared to “turn to other options” if diplomacy with Iran fails.
“Mr. Sullivan explained that this administration believes diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal, while also noting that the President has made clear that if diplomacy fails, the United States is prepared to turn to other options,” NSC spokesperson Emily Horne said in a readout of the meeting.
President Biden first said the US would “turn to other options” with Iran alongside Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when the two leaders met in August. Iran took Biden’s comments as a threat, and for good reason. The Israelis are pushing the Biden administration to abandon its stated plans to revive the nuclear deal and take a more hawkish approach towards Iran.
The US and Israel have been in close coordination on Iran. The talks between Sullivan and Hulata are part of a strategic dialogue on the Islamic Republic that the US and Israel established early in Biden’s presidency.
In September, Sullivan and Hulata held virtual talks and reportedly discussed a “plan B” for Iran. Sources told Axios that Israel wants the US to pursue a “plan B” that involves more economic sanctions on Iran. Around the same time, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz hinted that Israel is working on a “plan C” that involves military action against Iran.
The US has been calling for Iran to return to indirect negotiations to revive the JCPOA that have been stalled since June 20th. Iran has signaled the talks could resume in early November, although the new government of President Ebrahim Raisi wants to know that the Biden administration is serious about reviving the deal and is looking for a gesture of goodwill. The initial round of talks was dragged out due to the Biden administration’s refusal to lift all Trump-era sanctions.