Mar 8, 2023 - World

U.S. and Israel looking at Iran from "much closer point of view"

The flag of Iran is seen in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna. Photo: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

The U.S.-Israel talks on Iran this week were positive and showed that the two countries are looking at the issue from a "much closer point of view," a senior Israeli official told Axios.

Why it matters: The talks at the White House, which were the first of their kind since the new right-wing Israeli government assumed office, took place amid growing concerns over the unprecedented advancement of Iran's nuclear program.

  • The discovery by UN inspectors of uranium enriched to 84% — nearly the level needed for nuclear weapons — at Iran's underground nuclear facility Fordow caused even more alarm.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have stressed in recent weeks the need for a credible military threat against Iran.

Driving the news: The Israeli delegation, led by Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi included senior officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Defense and the intelligence community who deal with Iran.

  • The U.S. team, led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and the Israeli delegation “reviewed with significant concern advances in Iran’s nuclear program," the White House said in a statement.
  • The White House added that the two teams discussed the enhancement of the security partnership between Israel and the U.S. and pledged to strengthen coordination on measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to "further deter Iran’s hostile regional activities."
  • The officials also discussed the recent joint Israeli-U.S. military exercises, which Israeli officials said were focused on training for a possible military strike against the Iranian nuclear program.

What they're saying: "The talks on Iran were really good. The discussions were on a very high level of openness," a senior Israeli official who attended the talks said.

  • A second Israeli official with direct knowledge of the meeting said the talks reflected the fact that Israel and the U.S. are much more aligned on Iran than before.
  • “A nuclear deal is not on the agenda, and the Iranians are helping Russia in Ukraine. We are in a new world and a different environment, and we are looking at this issue from a much closer point of view," the Israeli official said.
  • The official added that the talks were serious. “It was a real discussion on Iran and not just a meeting to check the box. There was a lot of openness on the U.S. side," the official said.

Yes, but: The Israeli government was disappointed that the U.S. didn’t support the proposal by the E3 — France, Germany and the U.K. — to push for a censure resolution against Iran during the International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting earlier this week, Israeli officials said.

  • U.S. Iran envoy Rob Malley said at an event hosted by U.S. liberal advocacy group J Street last week that the Biden administration wanted to see whether IAEA director general Rafael Grossi could get an agreement with the Iranians on inspections.
  • Grossi met with Iran’s president and with its atomic energy chief this weekend, and the officials agreed on a road map for increasing IAEA inspections in Iran’s nuclear facilities.
  • State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday the U.S. will judge Iran on its actions. "We expect Iran to follow through with the commitments that it made," he said.
  • Senior White House officials declined to comment.
Go deeper