May 4, 2022 - World

U.S. and Israel discuss how to put more pressure on Iran

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Israel and the U.S. have been discussing ways to put more pressure on Iran in a scenario in which there is no return to the 2015 nuclear deal in the near future, a senior Israeli official told Axios.

Why it matters: The seven-week “pause” in the Vienna nuclear talks has thrown the negotiations into limbo. The Biden administration, its European allies and Israel have expressed concerns that Iran will continue to advance its nuclear program while the talks are stalled.

Driving the news: Discussions between Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata, his American counterpart Jake Sullivan and other senior officials at the White House last week largely focused on Iran, including preparation for a possible reality in which there is no return to the nuclear deal, the senior Israeli official told Axios.

  • Israel is opposed to the current draft agreement on the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, but Hulata and Sullivan did discuss how to put pressure on Iran to make it clear to the leadership in Tehran that it needs a deal and, at the same time, give the U.S. an advantage to get a better deal if nuclear talks resume, the senior Israeli official said.
  • According to the Israeli official, the two national security advisers discussed how to do this without pushing Iran to escalate its nuclear program and enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear bomb.
  • Israel suggested several possible ways to put pressure on Tehran, including passing a censure resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meeting in June and increasing U.S. military deterrence in the Middle East, the Israeli official said
  • “All those possible steps are meant to signal to the Iranians that nobody is waiting for them and that time is not working in their favor," the senior Israeli official said.

What they're saying: The White House declined to comment but said in a readout of the meeting that Sullivan "emphasized" that the U.S. is "attuned to Israel’s concerns about threats to its security, including first-and-foremost from Iran and Iranian-backed proxies. "

  • Sullivan and Hulata "agreed to further enhance the ongoing coordination through the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group and strengthen security and diplomatic cooperation wherever possible with other regional partners," the readout added.

Their meeting came a day after Biden had a 35-minute phone call with Bennett in which they discussed "shared regional and global security challenges, including the threat posed by Iran and its proxies," according to the White House.

  • The senior Israeli official described the call as very good, saying it showed that the U.S.-Israel relationship is important to both Biden and Bennett and they are trying to make the best out of it regardless of disagreements on certain issues.
  • “We feel there is a real dialogue with our U.S. counterparts and that Israel's positions are taken seriously. At the end of the day we both understand this is a long-term relationship," the Israeli official said.

What to watch: The senior Israeli official told me that, after the Biden-Bennett call and Hulata's White House meetings, it's clear something dramatic would have to happen for Biden to agree to remove Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations blacklist — the key Iranian demand that remains a sticking point in the nuclear talks.

Go deeper