Gantz: Iran’s ‘double game’ in region must be on the table at nuclear talks

Minister: ‘As officials negotiate in Vienna, their emissaries are increasing their aggressiveness’; Bennett to IDF brass: Israel’s main mission is to hit Iranian regime and proxies

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) and his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) and his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called on Thursday for world powers negotiating with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal to include Tehran’s backing for proxy groups in the talks.

“At the same time senior Iranian officials are holding negotiations in suits in Vienna, their emissaries in the Middle East are increasing their aggressiveness in the region, as we saw this past week with the terror attack on the United Arab Emirates,” he said at the Defense Ministry offices, during joint remarks with his Greek counterpart who is visiting Israel.

Gantz added: “Iran’s double game must be on the negotiating table in Vienna and every international effort to reach an agreement must also take into account Iran’s aggressiveness in the region.”

Shortly after, Gantz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with the military’s top brass at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters, located in the same complex in Tel Aviv.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett outlined his “strategic view” on various security challenges facing Israel, “foremost the Iranian issue.”

“The prime minister stressed that the State of Israel’s main mission is to significantly hit the Iranian regime and its emissaries in the region,” the statement said, in an apparent reference to Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups backed by Tehran.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C), Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi attend a meeting of the IDF General Staff Forum at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Bennett on Tuesday offered Israel’s “security and intelligence support” to the UAE following the missile and drone attack that killed three people in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthis and send condolences to the families of the innocent victims,” Bennett said.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led military coalition that supports Yemen’s government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have repeatedly targeted Saudi Arabia with cross-border strikes.

In this satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC, smoke rises over an Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. fuel depot in the Mussafah neighborhood of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 17, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Talks to restore the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers — United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany — began last year but stopped in June as Iran elected ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi. The talks resumed in November.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that there were only “a few weeks left” to save the Iran nuclear deal, and the United States is ready to look at “other options” if the talks fail.

The 2015 deal offered Iran much-needed relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy, in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Then-US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018 prompted Tehran to walk back on its commitments.

Officials in Israel, which is seeking significantly more robust curbs on Iranian activities backed by the credible threat of military action, have said the country is not bound by the agreement and will act as it sees fit to protect its citizens.

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