CIA director Bill Burns is arriving in Israel Tuesday in his first trip to the region since taking office to discuss with Israeli counterparts the growing standoff with Iran, especially after in the past two weeks Tehran is believed behind two attacks on foreign tankers in the Gulf region.
Burns is further expected to engage the Israelis on the Iran nuclear issue. Tel Aviv has consistently argued for halting Vienna JCPOA talks, which are currently stalled prior to the seventh round of negotiations which may not pick up again until September, arguing that it's simply buying more time for the Iranians to pursue a bomb.
The July 29 drone attack on the Israeli-managed Mercer Street off Oman left two international crew members dead, while on August 3 the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess was hijacked near UAE allegedly by Iranian operatives. The fast-thinking crew reportedly disabled the engines in order to prevent the vessel being taken to Iranian waters, prompting the half dozen or more gunmen to disembark before the ship was rescued.
Israeli rhetoric and warnings have since grown more bellicose, with Israel's Ambassador to the US and UN Gilad Erdan last Friday expressly calling for regime change in Tehran. "In the end, we would ultimately like to see [the government] overthrown and [for there to be] regime change," Erdan told Israel’s Army Radio when asked about his government’s Iran policy.
The CIA chief will primarily meet with new Mossad Director David Barnea, and on Wednesday is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, before going to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority officials including PA President President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj.
On the nuclear issue, Burns was actually one of the initial architects behind the scenes to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal while at the State Department under Obama.
Axios notes that "In 2013, Burns and national security advisor Jake Sullivan led the backchannel talks with Iran that preceded the nuclear deal, flying secretly to Oman to meet their Iranian counterparts without notifying Israel or other allies."
Revelation of the meeting angered leaders in Israel, to the point of deeply straining relations between Obama and Netanyahu at the time.
Meanwhile part of the continuing Israeli-Iran "shadow wars"?...
🇸🇾 Explosions reported on a ship off Latakia, Syria, via AJ Breaking pic.twitter.com/X3hSmsAG9s— PiQ (@PriapusIQ) August 10, 2021