Defence and Alternate Prime Minister of Israel, Benny Gantz, has vowed that Tel Aviv will work closely with Washington in order to ensure that any new agreement it reaches with Iran on the latter’s nuclear programme will not trigger a "dangerous" arms race in the region. Gantz stressed that Israel sees the US as a "full partner" in all "operation theatres", including Tehran.
Gantz made his statement following a meeting with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, who arrived in Israel earlier today. Austin followed up the alternate prime minister's remarks by saying that the "enduring and ironclad" relationship between Israel and the US will remain central to regional security. The Pentagon chief is scheduled to meet Gantz's partner in the prime minister’s office, Benjamin Netanyahu later today, before departing for Germany.
The US Department of Defence issued a statement last week, ahead of Austin's trip, saying that he, Gantz, and Netanyahu will "continue close consultations on shared priorities, and reaffirm the enduring US commitment to the US-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge".
Israel backed the decision by now-former President Donald Trump to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal) and slap Tehran with sanctions in 2018. Now, that the new administration under Joe Biden has announced plans to return to the JCPOA or strike a new deal with Iran, Tel Aviv has been expressing discontent with the idea.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that whatever deal Washington strikes with Tehran Israel will not adhere to it or sit idly by while Iran allegedly arms itself with nuclear weapons.
"I say to our closest friends too: 'A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us'. Only one thing will obligate us: to prevent those who wish to destroy us from carrying out their plans", Netanyahu said.
Despite Tehran never having hidden its hostility towards Tel Aviv, Iranian officials insist that the idea of nuclear weapons contradicts the country's official religion – Islam. However, Iran's decision to backtrack on its JCPOA commitments in response to the US sanctions caused the other signatories to the deal to worry and asking both Tehran and Washington to return to compliance.
The talks between the two, however, have not yet started as the nations are still in disagreement about the main condition: who should make the first step. The US is adamant that Tehran must fully and verifiably return to JCPOA compliance before any sanctions are lifted. Iran, in turn, refuses to even consider such step as long as the American sanctions are in place, pointing out that it was the US actions that lead to the nuclear deal's near-collapse. The Joint Commission of the JCPOA members joined by the US assembled in Vienna this week to try and work out the process of a mutual return to compliance with the nuclear deal. However, there have been no reports or statements about the progress made in the talks so far.