Meeting top US officials, Kohavi blasts American plans to rejoin Iran deal

IDF chief reportedly says another round of fighting in Gaza is only a matter of time, as he meets with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

By JUDAH ARI GROSS23 June 2021, 10:01 pm  

From left, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations Gilad Erdan, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan meet in Washington on June 23, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi again railed against the United States’ plan to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal during a meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other top American defense officials on Wednesday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

During his meeting in Washington, Kohavi reiterated the “failures of the current nuclear deal” and attempted to convince the American officials of alternative methods of preventing Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon, the military said.

The US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk and Special Assistant to the President Cara Abercrombie also took part in the meeting with Sullivan, according to the IDF.

“Throughout the day, the chief of staff has presented possible ways to prevent Iran from obtaining military nuclear capabilities during his meetings,” the IDF said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Iran reported that an attempt had been made to attack a site associated with its nuclear program northwest of Tehran. Official Iranian state media reported that the strike had failed, but Iranian opposition outlets said damage had been caused to the facility, which was used to create parts for centrifuges.

Kohavi’s remarks came as the US and Iran — through intermediaries — have been negotiating a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Former US president Donald Trump abrogated the agreement in 2018, putting in place a crushing sanctions regime, which prompted Iran to also abandon the accord a year later, enriching more uranium and at greater levels of purity than was permitted under the deal, as well as taking part in other forms of proscribed nuclear research.

Israel staunchly opposes US President Joe Biden’s plan to reenter the JCPOA, which he has said he’s prepared to do provided Iran returns to compliance with the agreement.

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora leave the ‚Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

On Wednesday, Iranian officials said the US had agreed in principle to remove over 1,000 sanctions on officials and companies associated with the Islamic Republic’s oil and shipping sectors, which had been put in place under Trump.

The Biden administration has said it plans to use the JCPOA as a starting-off point for brokering a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal, though critics — including those in Israel — say that once the US eases the sanctions in place on Iran and Iranian officials as it returns to the JCPOA, Tehran will no longer have an incentive to negotiate.

Several delegations of Israeli officials, including former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, have traveled to the US in recent months in an effort to dissuade the Biden administration from reentering the agreement.

In the past, US officials have said that the concerns raised by Israel during these talks will not change the White House’s plans.

During his meeting, the IDF chief also reportedly told Sullivan that another round of conflict in the Gaza Strip was only a matter of time, following last month’s bloody 11-day battle with terror groups in the Palestinian enclave.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Kohavi referred specifically to the difficulties in the ongoing negotiations with Hamas and its leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, who has demanded Israel allow large sums of aid money from Qatar into the Strip. Israel has maintained that it will not allow large-scale reconstruction in Gaza until Hamas returns two Israeli civilians and the remains of two fallen IDF soldiers that it is holding captive.

Kohavi landed in Washington on Sunday and has met with a number of top American defense officials, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, US Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie and others. He is due to return to Israel on Friday, according to the military.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center-right, and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, center-left, salute outside the US Department of Defense in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi was scheduled to meet with CIA head William Burns and the US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

In addition to discussing Iran’s nuclear program, the IDF chief also shared Israeli assessments of the Islamic Republic’s military expansionism in the Middle East, the IDF said.

On Wednesday, Kohavi also met with Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the United Nations Gilad Erdan, discussing in particular the IDF’s concerns regarding the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist militia and the ways in which the UN and its peacekeeping force in Lebanon can help rein in the group in accordance with UN resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

“The two discussed the need to enforce and effectively fulfill the mandate of the [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] in light of the renewal process of the mandate in the UN later this year. The chief of staff stressed that for years the state of Lebanon has lost control of its security policy and completely abdicates its responsibility to uphold resolution 1701, as the Hezbollah terrorist organization effectively runs Lebanon’s security policies,” the IDF said.

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