Israel hosted US Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns Tuesday for talks focused on Iran, with Jerusalem reportedly attempting to deter any American rapprochement with Tehran by presenting Iran’s new president as a deranged misfit.
Officials gave no details of the agenda for the CIA chief’s talks in Israel, but the Walla news site reported that Burns planned to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Mossad spy agency head David Barnea and other senior intelligence figures.
During the meeting with Barnea, Mossad official presented Burns with information intended to show Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi as untrustworthy and incapable of negotiating a new nuclear deal or sticking to his commitments, Channel 12 news reported.
According to the channel, Barnea gave Burns a dossier on Raisi that portrayed him as exceptionally extreme, cruel, corrupt and unstable.
“The Mossad described him as someone with mental disturbances,” the channel claimed in the unsourced report.
Raisi, a hardline former judiciary head who was Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s choice for the role, has been accused of ordering the execution of thousands of prisoners toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.
He took office on Thursday, taking over for Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who agreed to a landmark deal in 2015 that curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Burns, a career diplomat, played a key role in the US rapprochement with Iran that led to the deal between Iran and major powers.
US President Joe Biden has sought to rejoin the pact after former president Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018. Israel opposes the deal and government officials have held successive rounds of talks with US counterparts on the nuclear negotiations.
The visit by Burns comes amid what analysts have called a “shadow war” that has seen a spate of attacks on facilities in Iran and maritime vessels linked to Israel.
Last month, the MT Mercer Street, an oil products tanker operated by Israeli-controlled Zodiac maritime, was struck by a drone off the Omani coast, killing two crew members — a Briton and a Romanian.
G7 foreign ministers on Friday pointed the finger of blame for the attack at Iran, as the US military released the findings of an investigation alleging the drones were made in the Islamic republic.
Iran dismissed the allegations.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday said Iran was “the greatest threat to peace in the region”.
“We call on the international community to act to stop Iranian aggression,” Gantz said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday renewed vows to punish Iran for allegedly attacking the tanker, saying the world cannot allow “impunity.”
“It is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible. Failing to do so will only fuel their sense of impunity and embolden others inclined to disregard the maritime order,” he said.
Burns was also expected to travel to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian official said.
Walla News said he would also meet Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj there.