The US has issued a rare warning to its closest Mideast ally Israel over its escalating actions against Iran amid ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna.
Israeli media reports that the Biden administration in backchannel communications has voiced "displeasure" not only with recent covert attacks - particularly the April 11 incident at the Natanz nuclear site - but its willingness to 'leak' its culpability to the public. According to Israel's YNet News:
Washington has informed Jerusalem of its displeasure over recent attacks against Iranian targets attributed to Israel, as well as what it called "boasting" by Israel regarding these incidents, sources said.
The Russian and the US delegations at the Vienna talks held useful bilateral consultations on issues related to US sanctions lifting and return of Iran to full compliance with its nuclear commitments under #JCPOA. pic.twitter.com/qPWJoIQm7H— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) April 19, 2021
Immediately after the Natanz blackout incident, which is believed to have destroyed crucial Iranian centrifuges, setting back operations there by months, the Biden administration sought to distance itself from the sabotage.
However, Israeli intelligence essentially owned up to it in an intentional "leak" to The New York Times. But some commentators are pointing out that Israel has been forthright from day one, saying openly that it intends to do everything possible to prevent a new JCPOA nuclear deal from forming.
Tel Aviv has long believed the Iranians will build a bomb under cover of the JCPOA.
Meanwhile in Vienna there were positive reports over the weekend that the US and Iranian sides are actually on the cusp of pursuing a "new understanding" - as Iran officials put it. According to a quick summary by Bloomberg there's a "thaw" underway:
- U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Fox News on Sunday "the talks in Vienna have been constructive in the sense that there is real effort underway there" and that world powers were focused on restoring the agreement on a "compliance for compliance" basis
- Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said Saturday that a "new understanding" was taking shape
But the question will remain how far Israel will continue to go in actions that seek to derail the deal or destabilize things enough to get negotiators second-guessing or accusing the other side of bad faith.