Differences over approach to Iran surface during Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin’s visit to Israel

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Long-running differences between the Biden administration and Israel over how to halt Iran’s booming nuclear program became public on Thursday, as the U.S. Defense Secretary spoke with his Israeli counterpart during a visit to the country. Discussed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions with.

Even as efforts to revive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal failed, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin insisted in comments in Tel Aviv that “diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant made no mention of the looming nuclear talks, instead telling Austin: “We must take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” He suggested that Israel might resort to military action to remove Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Gallant reiterated twice to emphasize, “The Iranian nuclear threat requires us to be prepared for every course of action.”

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The difference between their statements shows the countries’ different attitudes towards Iran.

With Biden as his vice president, then-President Barack Obama spearheaded the 2015 nuclear deal, which gave Iran economic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposed the deal, saying it did not have adequate safeguards and did not address non-nuclear Iranian aggression in the region.

After former President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal and imposed new sanctions on Iran, Tehran has gradually increased its uranium enrichment, expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium and developing advanced centrifuges. UN experts say Iran has enriched uranium to 84% purity, just short of weapons grade, although they say Iran is still months away from the capability to make weapons.

Biden took office vowing that the United States would rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Iran if Tehran complied with the accord’s strict limits on its nuclear program. But efforts to revive the accord have failed.

Meanwhile, Israel is engaged in a years-long shadow war with its arch-enemy Iran that has spread across the wider Middle East. Since returning to office late last year, Netanyahu has openly advocated military action against Iran. Israel is believed to have conducted a series of covert sabotage and targeted killing operations in order to push back Iran’s territorial limits and slow its ability to enrich nuclear fuel.

Gallant said, “We must do everything in our power to ensure that the Ayatollah’s dreams are not fulfilled at any cost.”

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US and European officials have indicated that efforts to revive the nuclear deal have been effectively suspended in the wake of Tehran’s violent crackdown on nationwide protests and the sale to Russia of armed drones used in Moscow’s war against Ukraine. A decision that allowed Austin alleged that Iran would use “unprecedented defense cooperation, including missile and air defense” from Russia.

Russia’s war on Ukraine also exposed stubborn differences between the two close allies. Although Israel has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has repeatedly refused Kiev’s requests to send air defense systems and other weapons. It has also refrained from imposing tough economic sanctions for fear of damaging its vital ties with Moscow.

For years, Russia and Israel have enjoyed a good working relationship and coordinated closely to avoid run-ins in the skies over Syria, Israel’s northeastern neighbor, where Russian air power has besieged Syrian President Bashar Assad. Have done
Austin on Thursday urged Israel to do more to back Ukraine in the Peace War, noting the increasingly close military ties between Iran and Russia.

“We are calling on all of our allies and partners to step up now at this critical moment in history,” he said. “Nations of good will, and especially our fellow democracies, must all urgently play their part in helping Ukraine fight for its independence.”

When asked by a reporter what it would take for Israel to offer military aid to Ukraine, Gallant was vague. We are doing our best, he said. “We are doing it with an understanding of Israel’s interests in the region.”

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Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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