Oct 6, 2021 - World

Israeli foreign minister heads to D.C. to coordinate on Iran

Picture of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Secretary of State Tony Blinken
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Rome. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will travel to Washington next week for talks with senior Biden administration officials on Iran, Lapid’s office said.

  • Lapid is expected to meet with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Vice President Kamala Harris between Oct. 12-14.

Why it matters: Israel is pressing the Biden administration to develop a “Plan B” in case nuclear talks with Iran fail.

  • State of play: Talks aimed at a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal have been frozen since hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected as Iran's president in June, and optimism about a potential deal has been waning in Washington and in European capitals.
  • Israeli officials say Lapid wants to pass on Israel’s messages about Iran at the highest level before the Vienna talks resume.

Driving the news: U.S. and Israeli officials led by Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, met on Tuesday at the White House for strategic talks on Iran's nuclear program, regional activities and deployment of attack drones.

  • Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian discussed the nuclear talks on Wednesday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
  • Shortly before the meeting, Lavrov had spoken to Blinken about the effort to resume talks with Iran, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
  • After the meeting, Amir-Abdollahian said talks would resume "soon."

What they're saying: After the U.S.-Israel meeting, the White House emphasized that the administration believes diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but "if diplomacy fails, the United States is prepared to turn to other options."

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials have been making the case to their U.S. counterparts that the Biden administration should prepare a new package of sanctions on Iran while also making clear that the U.S. has a credible military threat, an Israeli official told me.

  • “We told the Americans that without those two things, the Iranians won’t have any incentive to go back to the 2015 nuclear deal," the official said.

What’s next: The Israeli government expects the nuclear talks in Vienna to resume in a few weeks.

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