Gantz Heads to Washington to Press for More Iran Sanctions as Nuclear Talks Resume

The Israeli defense minister's visit comes after the head of the Mossad conducted a round of talks in Washington, as negotiations over Iran's nuclear program continue

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Washington, June.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Washington, June.Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Defense Minister Benny Gantz headed to Washington on Thursday for a round of talks in a bid to press President Joe Biden's administration to increase sanctions against Iran, with talks between Tehran and world powers over its nuclear program set to resume in Vienna later in the day.

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Gantz is scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in an attempt to enlist their support for expanding sanctions. Gantz also plans to propose steps to respond to Iran's drone attacks in the Persian Gulf area.

Sources in Israel said this week that during the Vienna talks, Washington was surprised by Iran's toughening of its position. Tehran has been breaking restrictions agreed upon in its original deal with world powers since the U.S. withdrew from it in 2018, and is now demanding that the U.S. remove all sanctions immediately and commit to not restoring them as a condition for Iranian cooperation in the nuclear talks.

A senior Israeli official said that Israel does not know yet whether the Vienna talks will yield results. The head of the Russian delegation in the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted on Wednesday that “Our contacts with the US and Iran … prove that both sides are very serious … but their visions of relevant ways and means differ.” He said overcoming the differences was "feasible in the light of unity of purpose."

As part of Israel's efforts to sway the parties in the Vienna talks, Mossad chief David Barnea completed a round of talks with counterparts in Washington this week.

Last week, Barnea gave a rare public look at how Israeli intelligence views Iran’s conduct. “It’s obvious that there is no need for uranium enriched to 60 percent for civilian purposes," he said in a speech at the President's Residence. "There is no need for three sites with thousands of active centrifuges unless there is an intention to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran seeks regional hegemony, conducts itself through terrorism that we are blocking daily all around the world, and continually threatens the stability of the Middle East.”

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