Blinken meets Israel spy chief about Iran concerns: Report

Israeli officials express ‘deep concern on the Iran nuclear issue’ during talks in Washington.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates in a virtual bilateral meeting at the State Department on April 27, 2021 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and its ambassador to Washington on Thursday, and the Israeli officials expressed “deep concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities, the Reuters news agency reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The meeting in Washington followed talks this week between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart in which the Israeli delegation stressed their “freedom to operate” against Iran as they see fit, the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

As President Joe Biden explores a possible US return to the 2015 JCPOA deal to contain Iran’s nuclear programme that his predecessor Donald Trump abandoned, Israel has stepped up calls for more sweeping curbs to be imposed on sensitive Iranian technologies and projects.

The Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions imposed on Iran in a bid to get Iran to return to compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear accord, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, citing current and former US officials and others familiar with the matter.

Administration officials deny they will remove all non-nuclear sanctions, but have declined to identify those which they believe Trump improperly imposed on “terrorism” and other grounds.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks at his first daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, on February 2, 2021 [File: Nicholas Kamm/Pool via Reuters]

“Any return to the JCPOA would require sanctions relief, but we are considering removing only those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday. “Even if we rejoin the JCPOA – which remains a hypothetical – we would retain and continue to implement sanctions on Iran for activities not covered by the JCPOA, including Iran’s missile proliferation, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses.”

Sharpening Israeli warnings, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Reuters on Thursday that war would be sure to follow if the United States and other powers reached what Israel considers a bad new nuclear deal with Iran.

Reiterating Israel’s position that it does not consider itself bound by the diplomacy, Cohen said, “A bad deal will send the region spiralling into war.”

The meeting of Blinken and his team with Mossad chief Joseph (Yossi) Cohen and Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan was the latest in a series of high-level contacts apparently aimed at allowing Israeli officials to air their grievances while seeking common ground on the Iran issue.

Mossad director Joseph (Yossi) Cohen gestures as he addresses a budgeting conference hosted by Israel’s Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on October 22, 2018 [FIle: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

At Thursday’s talks, the Israeli officials voiced “deep concern on the Iran nuclear issue and other activities,” the Reuters source said.

The source declined to say how Blinken and his aides responded.

Source: News Agencies