“We will maintain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, while seeking to further its integration with its neighbors and resuming our role as promoter of a viable two-state solution.”
The Biden administration issued a warning to its allies in the Middle East not to oppose US policies and not to seek military solutions to the region’s problems.
“We do not believe that military force is the answer to the region’s challenges, and we will not give our partners in the Middle East a blank check to pursue policies at odds with American interests and values,” it said in a document the US Embassy in Jerusalem sent to the media on Friday.
The document titled “Interim National Security Guidelines” was posted on the White House website last week and outlined the Biden administration’s global strategic interests, including in the Middle East. It gave a nod in the direction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it did not mention the Palestinians or its conflict with Israel on settlement building.
The document stated that “in the Middle East, we will maintain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, while seeking to further its integration with its neighbors and resuming our role as promoter of a viable two-state solution.”
It did, however, make more references to the need to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
“We will work with our regional partners to deter Iranian aggression and threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, disrupt al-Qaeda and related terrorist networks and prevent an ISIS resurgence,” the Biden administration stated in the document.
The US policy outline was published as Israel has increasingly spoken of the possibility that it might have to use force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Israel and the Biden administration are at odds on how best to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and to halt its regional and global support of terror activities.
While the two allies agree on the end goal, the Biden administration believes the best way forward is to rejoin the 2015 Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
To help advance the US return to the deal, which it exited in 2018, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is slated to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday in his role as a UN Security Council facilitator of the JCPOA.
“Ireland is a strong supporter of the JCPOA. In our role as facilitator, Ireland is keen to maintain a close dialogue with all actors, and encourage all parties to return to full compliance with the agreement,” Coveney said in a statement.
Israel believes the deal only emboldens Iran and that it retains the ability to become a nuclear power. It has laid out a series of demands it would like to see addressed in a future deal, including Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
In an interview on Fox News Thursday night, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned against a return to the deal, noting that Iran could not be trusted.
“The Iranians are breaking everything that was agreed with them, they are bluffing,” he said as he spoke of Tehran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and the possibility a potential IDF strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The IDF is updating its attack plans, Gantz revealed to Fox News.
“We have them [the attack plans] in our hands, but we will continue [to] constantly improve them,” Gantz said.
“The Iranian nuclear aspiration must be stopped. If the world stops them before, it’s very much good. But if not, we must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves,” Gantz said.
He also spoke of the danger of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon, that has Israel within its weapons scope.
DURING THE interview, Gantz revealed a classified map to demonstrate how Hezbollah has “hundreds of thousands of missiles” and asked “what is going to happen to Lebanon?”
“We are ready to fight,” he informed his interviewer, Fox News correspondent Trey Yingst.
The map was blurred for the audience back home, but Yingst seemed very interested in its content. The former IDF chief of staff said that the map contains the locations of Hezbollah ground forces, launching sites and command posts.
“Everything (they have) is directed at civilian targets and is being conducted from civilian infrastructure,” he said.
Gantz added that each one of these locations has been examined by Israel from all aspects, including the legality of striking it, and that Jerusalem is willing to do so in the event that a new war erupts with Hezbollah.
“This is a target map. Each one of them has been checked legally, operationally, intelligence-wise and we are ready to fight,” Gantz said.
Unlike Gantz, the European Union and the three European signatories to the deal – Germany, France and the UK – were hopeful that progress could be made to return the US to the deal and ensure Iranian compliance with its dictates.
“Things are moving in the right direction and we have had positive signals this week and especially in last few days,” a French diplomatic source said.
The source added the objective was to get everyone around the table before the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 20, when Iran slows down administratively.
He added that the window would also narrow from mid-April when Iran’s presidential election campaign kicks in.
“We are putting all our efforts so that this (meeting) can take place in the days or coming weeks,” the source said.
A second European source also said there had been positive signals from the Iranian side.
Diplomats said the obstacle for talks was that Iran was setting preconditions for attending to ensure that there would be a pathway to sanctions relief after the meeting, something the US could not accept.
“It’s not a matter of giving an assurance of something that we’d do. It’s sitting down and making sure that both sides do – as a first step, as a second step, whatever it is – that both sides are taking positive steps,” a senior US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“We can’t tell them in advance what we’re going to do if we don’t know what they are going to do,” the official said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also due to meet Coveney during the trip, on Friday said Iran would soon present a “constructive” plan of action.
“As Iran’s FM (foreign minister) & chief nuclear negotiator, I will shortly present our constructive concrete plan of action – through proper diplomatic channels,” Zarif said on Twitter.
Britain, France and Germany decided to pause the submission of a resolution critical of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday so as to not harm the prospects for diplomacy after what they said were concessions gained from Iran to deal with outstanding nuclear issues.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said he was “neither optimistic nor pessimistic.”
The Biden administration has put forward a proposal to return both the US and Tehran to the deal, Price said. That proposal was proffered by three European signatories to the deal known as the E3, he said.
“If Iran resumes its full compliance with the JCPOA, the United States will be prepared to do the same,” Price said.
He added that the Biden administration’s overarching objective, “is to ensure that Iran is subject to permanent, verifiable restrictions that prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.”