May 2, 2021 - World

Israeli official: Biden told Mossad director U.S. isn't close to returning to Iran deal

Biden and Cohen in a split screen.

Biden met with Mossad director Yossi Cohen on Friday, per a senior Israeli official. Photos: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images; HEIDI LEVINE/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told the director of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Yossi Cohen, on Friday that the U.S. has a long way to go in talks with Iran before it agrees a return to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal, per a senior Israeli official briefed on the talks.

State of play: Cohen, who has been director of the Mossad since 2016, laid out Israel’s position on the issue, telling Biden it would be a mistake for the U.S. to return to the deal without improving it first. Biden assured Cohen that the U.S. will continue to seek Israel's input in the future.

Between the lines: A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council said Cohen’s meeting at the White House Friday was with adviser Jake Sullivan and other national security officials. The spokesperson said Biden “dropped by to express condolences for the tragedy at Mount Meron."

  • But a senior Israeli official disputed that description, saying the meeting Between the Mossad director and U.S. president wasn’t “a drop in,” and was not connected to the Mount Meron stampede, but was a pre-scheduled meeting specifically with the president to discuss Iran.

The meeting took place on Friday before noon, right after the phone call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which Biden offered condolences for the disaster.

  • The meeting lasted around an hour, the Israeli official said. Cohen was the only person to attend it from the Israeli side. Biden, Sullivan and CIA director Bill Burns attended from the U.S. side.
  • The White House declined further comment on the story.
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