President Joe Biden’s national security adviser on Tuesday told his Israeli counterpart that diplomacy is the best way to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, even as he confirmed Biden’s warning to Tehran that Washington could choose other options if negotiations fail.
Biden senior aide Jake Sullivan hosted Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata for talks that, according to a US official, gave the two allies an opportunity to share intelligence and develop a “baseline assessment” of how far Tehran’s nuclear program has progressed.
Under a 2015 agreement, Iran has curbed its uranium enrichment program, a potential route to nuclear weapons, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, and the Israeli government is opposing U.S. efforts to revive it.
US experts believe the time it would take Iran to achieve a nuclear “outbreak” — enriched enough uranium to build an atomic bomb — “has fallen from about 12 months to a period of about a few months” since Trump withdrew from the pact, the US official said earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Iran, Israel’s regional nemesis, has consistently denied developing a nuclear bomb.
In Tuesday’s talks, Sullivan emphasized “President Biden’s fundamental commitment to Israel’s security and to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the White House said in a statement.
“Mr. Sullivan explained that this administration believes diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal, while also noting that the president has made it clear that if diplomacy fails, the US is willing to use other options,” it added. ready.
Sullivan’s words echoed the message Biden gave Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a meeting at the White House in August.
Tuesday’s meeting of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group included military, intelligence and diplomatic officials and took place amid stalled international diplomacy with Iran.
Western powers have been trying for weeks to get Tehran to resume indirect negotiations with the US in Vienna. Talks have stalled since June after hard-hitting cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran, and Tehran was vague about when it could return to the table.
US officials have declined to specify what actions are being considered if diplomacy with Iran collapses.
When asked whether that includes military options, the senior US official, who briefed reporters ahead of Tuesday’s talks, said only that “we will be ready to take any action that is needed.”
Behind Tehran’s delay is an effort to leverage to make more concessions when negotiations eventually resume, some officials and analysts have said, including through advancing its uranium enrichment program.
Bennett, a far-right politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister in June, has made it clear that he wants Biden to toughen his stance against Iran, which Israel sees as an existential threat.