A senior Defense Ministry official told American officials during meetings in Washington last week that the Trump administration made a mistake by withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the Walla news site reported.
Quoting unnamed Israeli and US officials, the Thursday report said Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, who heads the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, made the remarks in talks with officials at the State Department and Defense Department.
Biden officials were surprised to hear Shalom’s comments, according to sources, mainly due to the Israeli government’s ongoing objection to a return to the 2015 agreement.
The Israeli government has been pressuring the Biden administration not to return to the deal, which US former president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018 in a move that received enthusiastic support from then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
An unnamed Israeli senior official quoted in the report said Shalom’s stance has long been known. In 2018, he reportedly voiced his objections to torpedoing the deal in a meeting with Netanyahu.
The unnamed official said that Shalom shouldn’t have expressed the sentiment to US officials, arguing they will use such remarks to boost their arguments for rejoining the nuclear deal.
The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the reports, according to the Axios news site. “We don’t comment on discussions in closed meetings,” a Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
According to the news site, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Strategic Affairs Joshua Zarka was in the US at the same time and delivered the opposite message, more in line with the government’s stance.
Zarka told US officials, including US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, that a nuclear deal was now out of the question, as Iran had reportedly set the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US’ foreign terrorist organizations list as a non-negotiable position.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett revealed this week that US President Joe Biden had ruled out the removal of the group from the list.
All but confirming Bennett’s claim, Malley told senators at a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the US would reject “demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA,” using the official name for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We are fully prepared to live with and confront that reality if that is Iran’s choice.”
Malley told the congressional panel that prospects for restoring the Iran nuclear agreement are “at best tenuous.”