Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold strategic Iran talks on Tuesday
Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me.
Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem.
Detail: The strategic dialogue is led by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, with officials from various national security and intelligence agencies participating. It will be held via a secure video link.
- The first round of talks last month focused on intelligence surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
- This round is expected to focus on Iran's regional activities in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, the Israeli officials say.
- The Vienna talks are also expected to be discussed, as well as recent attacks on Iranian and Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Between the lines: One of the main understandings that emerged from the first round of talks was a mutual "no surprises" policy.
- It's unclear how much coordination the Israelis did with Washington before the strikes on Iranian ships and the apparent attack at the Natanz nuclear site.
- The Biden administration has distanced itself both from that explosion and the attack last week on an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ship in the Red Sea. That has created the impression the Biden administration is unhappy with the Israeli actions.
The other side: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been increasingly vocal about his concerns around the nuclear talks. He recently said that Israel would not be bound by any U.S.-Iran deal, hinting that the Vienna talks will not prevent Israel from continuing its operations against Iran.