US and Israel ramp up pressure on Iran as diplomacy stalls

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said US President Joe Biden was “prepared to turn to other options” if the current American policy on Iran fails.

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The United States and Israel increased pressure on Iran on Thursday as nuclear talks stalled, with Israel’s visiting defense chief calling for discussions on joint military readiness to be able to halt Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Reuters exclusively reported on Wednesday, citing a senior US official, that US-Israeli discussions would include possible military exercises to prepare for a worst-case scenario to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail and if their nations’ leaders request it.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of the meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, that Iran had failed to offer constructive diplomatic engagement in talks that President Joe Biden had hoped would revive a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Austin said Biden was “prepared to turn to other options” if the current American policy on Iran fails.

“We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world,” Austin said.

Gantz described Iran, Israel’s arch foe, as “the biggest threat to the global and regional peace and stability.”

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government in talks have heightening suspicions in the West that Iran is playing for time while advancing its nuclear program.

With the 2015 deal’s nuclear benefits now badly compromised, some Western officials say there is little time left before the foundation of the deal is damaged beyond repair. Under the accord, Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.
Deterrence

The Pentagon declined comment on the Reuters report, which also disclosed an Oct. 25 briefing by Defense Department officials to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the full range of military options to ensure that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

“I know there’s interest in a certain Reuters report,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing.

“I will tell you this: We routinely conduct exercises and training with our Israeli counterparts and I have nothing to announce to or speak to or point to or speculate about today.”

Read more: Return to 2015 Iran deal should only be first step to longer, stronger deal: Saudi FM

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