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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration, in coordination with Israel and several Gulf states, is pushing a plan to slap a long string of new sanctions on Iran in the 10 weeks left until Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, two Israeli sources briefed on the effort told me.

Driving the news: The Trump administration’s envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams arrived in Israel on Sunday and met Prime Minister Netanyahu and National Security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to discuss the sanctions plan.

  • Abrams will meet on Monday with Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to brief them on the plan.
  • Abrams didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Why it matters: The Trump administration believes such a “flood” of sanctions will increase pressure on the Iranians and make it harder for the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Israeli sources told me.

Behind the scenes: In the last several weeks, the Trump administration — with the encouragement and assistance of part of the Israeli diplomatic and security establishment — has prepared a “target bank” of Iranian entities that will be sanctioned.

  • Abrams said in a closed briefing several days ago that the Trump administration wants to announce a new set of sanctions on Iran every week until Jan. 20, a source who was privy to the briefing told me.
  • The Israeli sources told me the planned sanctions are not connected to the Iranian nuclear program — such sanctions are more likely to be canceled by a Biden administration and open the door to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
  • Instead, the goal is to impose sanctions on Iran that are connected to its ballistic missile program, Iranian assistance to terror organizations and Iranian human rights violations.

What they're saying: “The goal is to slap as many sanctions as possible on Iran until Jan. 20," an Israeli source briefed on the plan told me.

What’s next: Abrams will travel from Israel to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh to discuss the sanctions plan.

  • The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are the two main allies the Trump administration and the Israeli government have against Iran, and both are very concerned by the Biden administration's future Iran policy.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is arriving in Israel on Nov. 18, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me. Pompeo will likely visit other countries in the region as well. His trip is also going to focus on the Trump administration’s last-ditch effort to increase pressure on Iran.

Go deeper: How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Israel's chief epidemiologist creates diplomatic incident with UAE

Israeli travelers arrive in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A remark by Israel’s chief epidemiologist suggesting the opening of direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv had led to COVID-19 deaths in Israel resulted in diplomatic protests from the UAE, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Direct flights were one of the main fruits of the Israel-UAE peace treaty, and around 130,000 Israeli tourists have taken advantage by flying to Dubai since December.

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Biden turns the page on Trump's Israel-Palestine policies

Biden with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Photo: David Furst/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration laid out its Israel-Palestine policy at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, highlighting the importance of repairing ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Driving the news: According to the new policies, the U.S. will resume aid to the Palestinians and reopen the PLO office in Washington and the consulate in Jerusalem.

Cuomo says words may have been "misinterpreted" following allegations of harassment

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a Feb. 22 news conference. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AF via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a lengthy statement on Sunday saying he " never inappropriately touched anybody" but acknowledged that "some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation," after two of his former aides accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Prior to Cuomo's statement, in which he adds that he "never inappropriately touched anybody" or meant to make anyone uncomfortable, the governor's office and the state attorney general went back and forth in a public disagreement about how to investigate the allegations.

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