With expected EU-sponsored US and Iranian talks toward restoring the nuclear deal (JCPOA) still at an impasse before they've even begun, Israel is on a full diplomatic blitz of Capitol Hill to prevent what's it's long claimed to be merely Tehran's "cover" for secretly developing a nuke, even with inspectors on the ground.
As Washington and Tehran continue their blame game and tit-for-tat on who will "comply first", the Biden administration will sit down with Israeli security officials for a "strategic forum" on Iran. Axios first learned this week that the close allies have "elected to reconvene a strategic working group on Iran, with the first round of talks on intelligence surrounding the Iranian nuclear program expected in the coming days."
This will present Tel Aviv with an official forum with which to make Netanyahu's case for permanently shooting down the 2015 nuclear deal, or at least to impose higher and more stringent requirements on Iran if it hopes to keep its nuclear energy program. Alternately, the White House is likely to use the opportunity to ensure a political fight will be avoided with America's closest Mideast ally.
The "working group" on Iran was first established under the Obama administration, giving opportunity for intelligence sharing at the highest levels - even at a policy level - which has made it a 'top secret' initiative from the beginning. The need for the group became somewhat moot given Trump later ramped up 'maximum pressure' and turned toward regime change strategizing.
Axios reviews some of the details of the reestablished US-Israeli forum as follows:
- It was the main venue for strategizing over how to apply pressure to Iran during Obama’s first term, and it became the primary setting to air disagreements about the nuclear deal during Obama’s second term.
- During Donald Trump's tenure, the forum convened to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and to coordinate the "maximum pressure" campaign.
- The forum is headed by the U.S. and Israeli national security advisers — currently Jake Sullivan and Meir Ben-Shabbat — and includes top officials from across the various national security, foreign policy and intelligence agencies in both countries.
Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government has considered US re-entry into the JCPOA as nothing less than an "emergency" and national security crisis.
Further complicating matters was the fact that it took Biden a full month to actually return the Israeli Prime Minister's phone call. The new forum will likely be Israel's only shot at engaging the White House on the Islamic Republic.