Sunday, June 23, 2024

U.S., Israeli officials discuss Iran, Abraham Accords

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met with Israeli Minister of military affairs Benny Gantz on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. They have discussed Abraham Accords as well as Iran's nuclear program.

The meeting took place as the indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna reached a critical juncture. Western diplomats say they are now in the final phase of the talks and believe that a deal is within reach.

The Israeli government is still attempting to influence the U.S. position but also wants to start talking about how to counter Iran in the region if a new deal is reached or if negotiations fail.

Harris is visiting Munich amid the crisis in Ukraine. Though a close ally of the United States, Israel has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has stayed relatively neutral regarding the crisis.

Both the vice president and the defense minister’s offices declined Axios’ request to comment on the meeting.

Harris and Gantz met for 30 minutes in Munich and discussed Iran, Ukraine and the Abraham Accords, among other issues, with Gantz arguing that any nuclear deal must include strict monitoring and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the continuation of the IAEA investigations regarding possible military dimensions of the nuclear program, the Israeli ministry of defense announced.

Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons, stressing it wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Israeli officials told Axios that the assessment in Jerusalem is that the U.S. and Iran are very close to a deal, and that it is likely to be signed in the next two weeks.

“I expressed my gratitude to U.S. President [Joe] Biden and the VP for their commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran,” Gantz wrote on Twitter after the meeting.

“They reaffirmed the strength of U.S.-Israel relationship and discussed our efforts to address the threat posed by Iran and its proxies,” a White House official said on background in a readout of the meeting.

In early February, KAN reported a U.S. military official was present during an Israeli simulated drill preparing for an assault on Iranian nuclear facilities using dozens of warplanes.

Iranian officials have stressed the country reserves the right to respond to any adventurism by the United States and Israel. Tehran says Israel is well aware of Iran’s capabilities and capacities and its own limited capabilities as well as the fact that the Islamic Republic does not compromise or joke about its national security.

This will be the second meeting between Harris and a senior Israeli official since she assumed office. Her first meeting was with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during his visit to Washington last October.

Inside the Israeli government, Gantz is the most pro-deal official. Like many in the Israeli security establishment, Gantz thinks a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal is the least bad option and will serve Israel’s interests more than the current situation when there are no constraints on the Iranian nuclear program.

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