August 26, 2022
Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata held talks in Washington this week to ease Tel Aviv’s concerns over the US offering more concessions to Iran in the nuclear deal negotiations, media reports said.
Speculation has been growing that the United States and Iran are close to agreeing a return to the 2015 nuclear pact.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is expected in Washington on Friday to continue Hulata’s discussions.
Hulata met with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Sullivan underscored Biden’s steadfast “commitment to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon” during his conversation with Hulata.
Sherman and Hulata “discussed the strength of the bilateral relationship and reflected on the success” of President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel.
“They also discussed shared global security challenges, including Iran,” said a State Department statement, with Sherman reiterating the administration’s “steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.”
Axios reported that when Hulata arrived in Washington this week, “his government was highly concerned that the Biden administration was about to make new concessions to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. After the visit, that anxiety has been reduced, three Israeli officials say.”
“The US and Iran have moved much closer to a deal to restore the 2015 nuclear accord in recent weeks, but a few key Iranian demands remain unresolved. According to the Israeli officials, the US has toughened its positions on those demands,” it added.
“The White House says the reason a deal is now getting closer is that Iran has made significant concessions. But the Israeli side has been concerned the US might soften its own positions to get the deal across the line,” it explained.
“One of the biggest concerns for Israel has been that the US would press the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to close its investigations into Iran’s undeclared nuclear activity, as Tehran has requested.
“The senior US officials made clear to Hulata that the US would not put political pressure on the agency,” the Israeli officials said according to Axios.
National security council spokesman John Kirby said publicly the next day that the US would not agree to make the nuclear deal conditional on the closure of the IAEA probe.
“We have communicated to Iran, both in public and private, that it must answer the IAEA questions. It’s the only way to address those concerns. And our position on that is not going to change,” Kirby briefed reporters.
Another Israeli concern was the possible easing of restrictions on conducting business with Iranian companies linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after the deal.
The White House assured Israel it would not soften its position on that due diligence process, according to the Israeli officials, said Axios.
A third concern was over the economic guarantees Iran would receive to protect against a scenario in which a future US president withdraws from the deal, as Donald Trump did in 2018.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid urged President Joe Biden and Western powers to call off an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, saying that negotiators are letting Tehran manipulate the talks and that an agreement would reward Israel’s enemies.
Lapid called the emerging agreement a “bad deal” and suggested that Biden has failed to honor red lines he had previously promised to set.
“The countries of the West draw a red line, the Iranians ignore it, and the red line moves,” Lapid told reporters at a press conference in Jerusalem. An emerging deal, Lapid said, “does not meet the standards set by President Biden himself: preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear state.”
Biden has been eager to revive the deal, which offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. The original deal unraveled after Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, with strong encouragement from Israel.
It remains unclear whether the United States and Iran will be able to reach a new agreement. But the Biden administration is expected to weigh in on Iran’s latest offer in the coming days. With an agreement appearing close, Israel has stepped up its efforts to block it.