Tel Aviv’s defense minister said he supports ‘broader agreement’ with Iran.
US officials have warned their Israeli counterparts over attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities, describing them as “counterproductive” as Tehran increases its nuclear enrichment, the New York Times [NYT] reported on Sunday.
Officials familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions told the NYT that the US warned its ally Israel that while attacks on Iran “can be tactically satisfying”, they remain ‘counterproductive.’
In turn, officials from Tel Aviv dismissed those warnings, saying they had no intention of holding back its actions despite concerns over potential consequences, which include the possibility of encouraging Tehran to ramp up its nuclear programme.
Over the past 20 months, Israel has been accused of targeting Iran’s prominent nuclear sites and assassinating top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November last year— moves that were strongly condemned by Qatar.
Investigations found that assassins from an Israeli-led team of some 20 agents killed Fakhrizadeh using an Israeli-automated gun.
Among the key sites reportedly targeted by Israel was the Natanz nuclear facility in April this year. The attack on the Natanz facility occurred at a critical time during which talks aimed at restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] were taking place in Vienna.
The former Hassan Rouhani administration pointed the blame towards Israel given its vocal opposition to the restoration of the JCPOA. In turn, Iran enriched uranium at 60% purity, raising concerns over the nation’s nuclear activity.
Tehran responded to concerns, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful and the enriched uranium was used to produce molybdenum to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.
Despite Israel’s opposition towards any deal between the US and Iran, Tel Aviv’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday that he is in favour of a “broader, stronger and longer” nuclear deal with Tehran.
“I can support an agreement that will be broader, stronger and longer – taking Iran back, dismantling its current capabilities and placing effective inspection on its sites and on its weapon production,” said Gantz at a conference on Israeli security affairs.
Chief of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] Rafael Grossi will head to Iran on Monday, where he is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian.
Commenting on Grossi’s visit, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters that he hopes the trip is going to be “constructive.”
“We have always advised the [IAEA] to stay in the course of technical cooperation and not allow certain countries to advance their political inclinations and intentions in the name of the Agency,” said Khatibzadeh.
The latest developments come as members of the p4+1—China, France, Russia, the UK, plus Germany—prepare to return to the negotiating table in Vienna at the end of this month in efforts to restore the JCPOA.
Indirect US-Iran talks kicked off in Vienna in April this year to revive the 2015 nuclear accord but adjourned following the sixth round in June. The talks were put on hold as Iran’s elections took place, which saw the victory of Ebrahim Raisi.
When former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, he imposed stifling economic sanctions on Iran in a bid to apply what his administration described as “maximum pressure” on Tehran.
Iran’s foreign ministry stressed that its negotiating team will attend the indirect talks “with serious determination” to remove US sanctions.