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Inside Jake Sullivan’s Meetings in Israel on Iran

Sullivan told Bennett at the top of their meeting that President Biden sent him to Jerusalem on Christmas week because he thought it was important “to sit together and develop a common strategy, a common outlook” on Iran and find a way forward that secures the interests of both U.S. and Israel.
Inside Jake Sullivan's meetings in Israel on Iran
Sullivan (left) meets Bennett. Photo: Israeli Government Press Office via Getty


Four senior Israeli officials who attended meetings in Jerusalem with national security adviser Jake Sullivan tell Axios they came away reassured that the U.S. is ready to take a harder line on Iran if necessary and to take Israel’s views into account.

The big picture: Sullivan sketched out three possible near-term scenarios on Iran’s nuclear program in the meetings, two officials say:

  1. An agreement within the next several weeks to return to full compliance with the 2015 deal, which he was skeptical would be achieved.
  2. A “freeze for freeze” interim agreement to stop Iran from further accelerating its program.
  3. No deal and new sanctions and pressure on Iran.

The backstory: As the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna, anxiety was growing in the Prime Minister’s Office over the idea that the Biden administration would seek a partial agreement that would provide Iran with sanctions relief without any nuclear rollback.

  • The idea of a possible “freeze for freeze” agreement was discussed during Sullivan’s meetings with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, all three of whom told Sullivan they oppose such a step, Israeli officials say.
  • Such a deal could prevent Iran from enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels. But Lapid told Sullivan that Israel already operates as though Iran has 90% enriched uranium, “and we don’t think there is any need to pay them not to do it,” according to one Israeli official.
  • Sullivan met Bennett, Lapid and Gantz on Wednesday following a meeting on Tuesday with President Isaac Herzog.

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