Iran’s nuclear program and regional behavior must be treated separately, Israel tells the US.

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat told his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in a secure video call two weeks ago that Israel believes that Iran’s nuclear program should be treated separately from its regional activity in future negotiations, two sources tell me. informed about the call.

Because it is important: While many critics of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal note that it did nothing to curb Iran’s aggression in the region, Israel is concerned that linking the two issues will give US and European negotiators incentives to compromise on the program’s limitations. Iran nuclear.

The state of the game: The Biden administration says it will return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal by lifting sanctions if Iran returns to compliance by reversing its recent nuclear steps.

  • The main stumbling block is the sequence of these movements. The United States last week offered to open direct talks to resolve those issues, but Iran has not formally responded.
  • Between lines: Some in the Biden administration want to push for a broader and more lasting deal. now – 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 platform for future negotiations.

Driving the news: Ben-Shabbat told Sullivan in his February 11 call that there should be no attempt to balance Iran’s non-nuclear steps, curb its presence in Syria, for example, with nuclear limitations such as those on research and development of advanced centrifuges.

  • Ben-Shabbat said Israel’s position is that Iran’s nuclear program is an existential threat and must be dealt with first, and the lesser threat of Iran’s regional behavior must be dealt with in a separate track, sources say.
  • The Israeli national security adviser added that a nuclear-armed Iran would not fulfill any regional commitments anyway.

Stand out: In the last month there have been many contacts on Iran between the Biden administration and the Israeli government.

  • Israeli officials tell me that they are generally satisfied with what they describe as the constructive approach and willingness of the Biden administration to listen to Israel’s concerns.
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken has spoken with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi three times, more than any other foreign counterpart. Blinken also spoke about Iran with Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad intelligence agency.

The last: On Wednesday, I reported that Israel and the United States agreed to reconvene a strategic working group on Iran, and the first round of intelligence talks around the Iranian nuclear program is expected in the coming days.


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