Israel receives "positive hints" U.S. is developing military option against Iran
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz received "positive hints" from White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan that the U.S. is developing a military option against Iran in parallel to the negotiations on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior Israeli defense official said in a briefing with reporters on Friday.
Why it matters: Since President Biden assumed office, and even more so after indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran on a nuclear deal resumed, Israel has pressed the administration to present a credible military threat against Iran, stressing this is the only way Tehran will be more flexible in the negotiations.
Driving the news: Gantz met with Sullivan at the White House on Friday and discussed the possible agreement on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal and Iran’s regional activity.
- Gantz told Sullivan Israel opposes the emerging nuclear deal and reiterated the need for a credible U.S. military threat against Iran, according to the Israeli official.
- The official said Gantz received "positive hints" about a possible military option when he pressed Sullivan on the issue, but the official would not elaborate.
- "We feel there is a trajectory for deepening and strengthening the capabilities against Iran and the Americans understand deeply that it will give the Iranians an incentive to be more pragmatic about the nuclear deal and will strengthen their position," the official said.
- The Israeli defense official added that even if a nuclear deal is signed, it is still important to create a credible U.S. military threat against Iran to deter it from continuing its aggression in the region. The official also stressed that Israel will maintain its freedom to act against Iran even if a deal is reached.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about a possible military option, but National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement that "Sullivan emphasized President Biden’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and the two exchanged views on ways to deepen the U.S.-Israel security partnership, including via regional cooperation and coordination."
- "They discussed U.S. commitment to ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, and the need to counter threats from Iran and Iran-based proxies," Watson added.
The big picture: The Israeli official said that the impression Gantz had from his meeting with Sullivan was that there is no deadline dictating the Biden administration's decision-making about the nuclear deal with Iran.
- “This is not a done deal. Israel still sees a lot of room to make a difference and even to try and make the deal longer and stronger," the Israeli official said.
- Gantz welcomed the series of airstrikes by the U.S. military against pro-Iranian militias in Syria in recent days and told Sullivan it is important that the U.S. continue using force against Iran's malign activity in the region even if the nuclear talks are still taking place, the Israeli official said.
- Gantz arrived in Washington after a day of talks at the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Florida that also focused on countering Iran’s malign activity in the Middle East, the Israeli official said.
State of play: The U.S. on Wednesday sent its response to Iran's comments on the EU draft agreement that would restore the nuclear deal.
- It's not clear whether there will be another round of negotiations.