Nov 11, 2021 - World

U.S. special envoy visits Israel, Arab ally nations ahead of Iran talks

Special Envoy for Iran talks
Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration’s Iran envoy, Rob Malley, is traveling to the Middle East for a wide-ranging round of consultation with U.S. allies ahead of the resumption of the indirect nuclear talks with Iran, the State Department said.

Why it matters: Israel and the Gulf states are concerned about the latest advances in Iran’s nuclear program and its aggressive regional activity.

  • But, at the same time, the countries are also concerned about a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which they see as not good enough to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Driving the news: Malley and the White House's Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk traveled to the United Emirates on Thursday. They are going to attend a conference in Dubai organized by the UAE foreign ministry and meet with Emirati officials.

  • From Dubai, Malley will travel to Israel. In his first visit since January, Malley will meet with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Israeli officials say that, at the moment, he is not expected to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
  • Next, Malley will travel to Saudi Arabia and then to Bahrain where he will attend a security conference in Manama and meet senior officials from the region. He is scheduled to return to Washington on Nov. 20.

What they are saying: “Malley will coordinate our approaches on a broad range of concerns with Iran, including its destabilizing activities in the region and the upcoming seventh round of talks on a mutual return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal,” the State Department said in a statement.

Between the lines: Malley’s extensive consultations in the region show the Biden administration wants to achieve two things — reassure regional allies it is taking their concerns into consideration and send a signal to Iran that there is no friction between the U.S., Israel and the Gulf states.

Worth noting: The Biden administration continued today to engage in what Israeli officials happily called “a power demonstration” in the region to deter Iran.

  • The U.S. Fifth Fleet on Thursday began a joint exercise with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain's Naval forces in the Red Sea. This is an unprecedented event, and it takes place while tensions between Iran and Israel in the Red Sea are growing.
  • An Israeli naval officer said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday that the goal of the joint exercise was “to make the sea a safe place.” He mentioned in this context the Iranian drone attack on the "Mercer Street" oil tanker several months ago. “We are facing Iranian terrorism at sea and we know we are not the only one in the region that are concerned about this threat,” the Israeli naval officer said.
  • The U.S. Air Force on Thursday sent two B-1 strategic bombers on a “presence patrol” in the region for the second week in a row. The B-1s were accompanied by Israeli F-15 jets and fighter jets from other countries in the region.

What's next: Indirect nuclear talks with Iran are set to resume in Vienna on Nov. 29.

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