Aug 12, 2021 - World

Israel seeks to coordinate "Plan B" with U.S. on Iran if nuclear talks fail

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told CIA Director Bill Burns in a meeting on Wednesday that the U.S. and Israel should start working on a joint strategy for a scenario in which Iran elects not to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli intelligence community, foreign ministry and other national security agencies think the likelihood of Iran deciding to return to the deal has waned in recent weeks after the election of new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

  • The Israeli government is concerned that the U.S. and other Western powers won't push back hard as Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program.
  • The Biden administration is still seeking a path back to the 2015 deal, but the talks are on hold as the new Iranian administration takes office.

Driving the news: The issue was the focus of Burns’ talks in Israel with Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Mossad director David Barnea.

  • Israeli officials viewed the meeting as part of the preparations for Bennett's meeting with President Biden, planned for later this month in Washington.
  • During the meeting, Bennett presented Burns with his assessment of, and policy toward, Iran. Israeli officials said their impression was that Burns was also skeptical about whether Iran was ready to return to full compliance with the deal.

What they're saying: “It was important for the Prime Minister to make it clear that when we say we think it is a mistake to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, it is not an automatic continuation of the Netanyahu government’s policy and that we have a different approach," a senior Israeli official told me.

“I am not among the supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal but I don’t see any plan B [if Iran doesn’t return to the deal.] We are talking about it with the U.S. and our European allies behind the scenes.”
— Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday 
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