Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Netanyahu attends a meeting with the Sultan of Oman in Muscat, Oman, Oct. 26, 2018. Photo: Israeli Prime Ministry Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In mid-2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal from the Sultanate of Oman to mediate a back channel between Israel and Iran, believing it would legitimize the secret U.S.-Iran talks that ultimately led to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to four former Israeli officials involved in the negotiations.

Why it matters: Knowledge of the dramatic Omani initiative had until now been restricted to a small group of Israeli officials. When he came into office in 2009, Netanyahu banned the Israeli Mossad from engaging in any direct or indirect talks with the Iranians without his clear approval, Israeli officials told me. Such an order doesn’t exist for any other country in the world.

The backdrop: In early 2013, Israel discovered that the U.S. and Iran were holding secret talks behind its back in Muscat, Oman.

  • Yaakov Amidror, who was then Netanyahu’s national security adviser, told me he protested to his American counterpart Susan Rice at the time, telling her it was insulting that the U.S. thought Israel wouldn't find out about the secret U.S.-Iran back channel in Oman.
  • "I was disappointed that the Americans more or less cheated us and I told them that," Amidror said.

In May 2013, after Hassan Rouhani — who is perceived by many as a moderate — won the presidential elections in Iran, the Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said sought to move forward into the second part of his initiative and promote Iranian-Israeli talks under his auspices, former Israeli officials told me.

  • Several weeks after Rouhani’s victory, the then-director of Mossad Tamir Pardo arrived at his weekly meeting with Netanyahu and presented him with sensitive information from the Sultanate of Oman, according to the former officials.
  • Israel and Oman had a secret relationship that started five decades ago, and the Omanis had a very good reputation for being discreet and effective mediators.

Behind the scenes: According to the former Israeli officials, the director of Mossad told Netanyahu the Sultan of Oman proposed establishing a secret back channel between Israel and Iran that would enable the parties to talk to each other and de-escalate tensions.

  • The officials said the Omanis thought Rouhani’s victory opened a window of opportunity and that U.S.-Iran talks could yield better results if Israeli-Iranian negotiations were taking place at the same time.
  • The message from Oman to Israel at the time was, “Even if you don’t agree on anything, engagement leads to de-escalation and non-engagement could lead to war,” according to the former Israeli officials.

Netanyahu heard what Pardo had to say and got national security adviser Amidror into the picture. Amidror told me the Omani interest was to be involved in everything and show that they could be effective mediators, but Israel had to consider whether the proposal served its interests.

  • Pardo and a group of senior Mossad officials thought the Omani initiative was serious and that Israel should at least explore the possibility of talks with Iran.
  • Amidror was vehemently against the idea, and told me: "The whole purpose of the Omani initiative was to give cover to the Iranians and the Americans who cheated us."

Netanyahu had more meetings with Pardo and with Amidror and eventually decided to reject the Omani initiative. Amidror still believes that the Mossad position was wrong and that Netanyahu was right to say no to the proposal.

  • “The Israeli response to the Omanis was warranted — as long as the Iranian leadership seeks to destroy us, we have got nothing to talk about with them," Amidror told me.  

The other side: Other former Israeli officials who were deeply involved in the affair still believe today that the Omani proposal was genuine, that the Iranians would have played ball and that it was a missed opportunity for de-escalation.

Go deeper: Netanyahu tells Security Cabinet Israel must not be dragged into Soleimani killing

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

11 hours ago - Economy & Business

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 12 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.