Iran's nuclear program and regional behavior should be dealt with separately, Israel tells U.S.
Israel's national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat told his US counterpart Jake Sullivan on a secure video call two weeks ago that Israel believes that Iran's nuclear program should be treated separately from its regional activities in future negotiations.
Why It Matters: While many critics of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal note that it did nothing to curb Iran's aggression in the region, Israel is concerned that linking the two issues will incentivize American and European negotiators to compromise to enter into the restrictions of the Iranian nuclear program.
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The state of play: Biden's administration says it will return the US to the 2015 nuclear deal by lifting sanctions if Iran returns to compliance by reversing its recent nuclear moves.
The main sticking point is the order of these movements. The US offered to open direct talks last week to resolve these issues, but Iran has not officially responded.
Between the lines: Some members of the Biden government now want to push for a broader and longer-lasting deal - with Iran's regional behavior and its missile program on the table - but Biden's stated goal is to restore the 2015 deal and use it as a Use the platform for further negotiations.
Moving the news forward: Ben-Shabbat told Sullivan in his call on Feb.11 that there should be no attempt to reconcile non-nuclear moves by Iran - for example, curbing its presence in Syria - with nuclear restrictions such as those in research and development bring on advanced centrifuges.
Ben-Shabbat said Israel's position is that Iran’s nuclear program poses an existential threat and needs to be addressed first, and the lesser threat to Iran’s regional behavior should be dealt with in a separate route, the sources say.
Israel's national security adviser added that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would not be complying with regional obligations anyway.
Noteworthy: In the past month there has been a lot of contact between the Biden government and the Israeli government on Iran.
Israeli officials tell me that they are generally satisfied with what they call the constructive approach and the Biden government's willingness to listen to Israel's concerns.
Foreign Minister Tony Blinken has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi three times - more than any other foreign counterpart. Blinken also discussed Iran with Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad secret service.
The latest: I reported on Wednesday that Israel and the US had agreed to re-establish a strategic working group on Iran. The first round of secret service talks on the Iranian nuclear program is expected in the coming days.
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