U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli officials for talks on Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a virtual meeting with UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir via videoconference from the State Department in Washington, U.S.

U.S. 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, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The meeting in Washington followed talks this week between U.S. 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 said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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

Sharpening Israeli warnings, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said 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 spiraling into war.”

“Anyone seeking short-term benefits should be mindful of the longer-term,” he said. “Israel will not allow Iran to attain nuclear arms. Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our planes can reach everywhere in the Middle East – and certainly Iran.”

Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Cohen said that in addition to denying Iran the means of enriching uranium and developing ballistic missiles, world powers should make it stop “destabilising other countries” and funding militants.

The Vienna talks have been overshadowed by what appeared to be mutual sabotage attacks on Israeli and Iranian ships, as well as an explosion at Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant that Tehran blamed on Israel.

Cohen, in keeping with Israeli policy, declined all comment.

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.

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

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

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