On Wednesday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other officials in Jerusalem and called for a “common strategy” between the US and Israel to deal with Iran.
Citing four unnamed Israeli officials, Axios reported that Israeli officials left the meetings with Sullivan reassured that the US was willing to take a harder line against Iran if necessary and is taking Israeli views into account.
Since talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal restarted in Vienna, Israel has been urging the US to call off the negotiations, tighten sanctions, and prepare for potential military action. US officials have been accusing Iran of not taking the negotiations seriously by asking for more sanctions relief, and are warning time is running out.
One Israeli official told Axios that Sullivan made clear that the window for the talks will close by the end of January or early February and “expressed skepticism” that a deal would be reached by then.
Sullivan reportedly laid out three scenarios to the Israeli officials:
- A deal is reached within the next few weeks, and the JCPOA is revived, which Sullivan doubts will happen.
- A “freeze for freeze” agreement that would give Iran some sanctions relief in exchange for freezing certain aspects of its nuclear program
- Negotiations fail and the US implements new sanctions and other pressure on Iran
Israeli officials have made it clear that they are against the idea of a “freeze for freeze” or any type of interim deal. The Israelis claim Iran is only using the negotiations to buy time while it develops a bomb despite a lack of evidence for the assertion. The head of the CIA, William Burns, recently said the spy agency has no evidence Iran has decided to pursue a nuclear weapon.
The JCPOA talks are currently on pause but are expected to resume soon. Despite all the negative comments from the US, Iranian officials have had positive things to say about the talks. But the Biden administration’s close coordination with Israel is not a good sign that the US is serious about lifting the necessary sanctions to return to full compliance with the JCPOA.