US and Israeli officials are meeting increasingly in Washington to discuss ongoing talks with Iran in Vienna, where American diplomats are in indirect negotiations with Iran on a return to compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Harboring strong national security fears, Israel is actively pushing for improving the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program and guarantees the cleric-led country does not obtain nuclear arms.
Several media outlets have reported on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top Biden administration officials meeting on Thursday with the chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, Joseph (Yossi) Cohen.
According to the reports, Blinken attended the meeting along with his newly confirmed deputy, Wendy Sherman, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and two other senior officials, Brett McGurk from the National Security Council and Derek Chollet from the State Department.
Meanwhile, Cohen and Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan represented Israel.
State Department Spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the two-hour meeting or even confirm that it had happened.
He, however, said the Biden administration is committed to coordination and transparency with Israel in its nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
A White House readout of that meeting said the US had “updated Israel on the talks in Vienna and emphasized strong US interest in consulting closely with Israel on the nuclear issue going forward.”
Price, for his part, reaffirmed that the Biden administration was aware of the US and Israel sharing a common interest in ensuring Iran never possesses a nuclear weapon.
“So we have conducted ourselves with a great deal of transparency, knowing that the United States and Israel share a common interest here, of course, and that is seeing to it – again, as I said before – that Iran is verifiably and permanently prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he told a press briefing.
Thursday’s meeting was the second time senior officials from the two countries discussed the matter in Washington this week.
“Israel sought to convince the Biden administration to pursue an improved treaty that stops Iran from obtaining nuclear arms rather than simply restore compliance to the 2015 deal,” officials familiar with the meeting said.
It is worth noting that on Tuesday, Sullivan, McGurk, Chollet, and US special envoy for Iran Rob Malley met Erdan and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to discuss Iran and other regional matters.