By Arab News
By Daoud Kuttab
The US and Israel “see eye to eye” on preventing Iran from obtaining atomic weapons, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday ahead of talks in Israel with Arab foreign ministers skeptical of a nuclear pact with Tehran.
Blinken sought to reassure Washington’s Gulf allies and Israel that the administration of President Joe Biden is committed to their security ahead of the possible renewal of the international nuclear deal with Iran.
Israel and its neighbors believe any easing of sanctions and the delisting of the IRGC would embolden Iranian-backed militant groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Wadie Abunassar, the Haifa-based director of the International Center for Consultations, told Arab News that countries taking part in the summit “are concerned about the Iran deal.”
He added: “All participants wish to ask the US to introduce additional conditions not only regard- ing Iran’s nuclear program, but also other Iran-related issues such as production of ballistic missiles and drones.”
Blinken met Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Sunday amid growing hints that the tattered 2015 landmark deal Tehran signed with major powers will soon be restored.
Speaking alongside his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, Blinken said the US believes restoring the agreement is “the best way to put Iran’s program back in the box that it was in but escaped” after the US withdrew from the deal under former president Donald Trump in 2018.
Lapid said Israel had “disagreements” with Washington about the Iranian nuclear issue, which it was airing with its key ally in “open and honest dialogue.”
He added: “Israel will do anything we believe is needed to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Anything.”
Blinken’s remarks came as US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said he was “not confident” that a nuclear deal was likely.
“I can’t be confident it is imminent. A few months ago we thought we were pretty close as well,” Malley told the Doha Forum international conference on Sunday.
Blinken and Lapid both plan a series of diplomatic meetings on Monday in Israel’s Negev desert with the foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.
Gershon Baskin, an Israeli analyst, told Arab News that “while the Iran deal is the reason for the meeting, it will not change the US position.”