Archive for December 5, 2021

Israel will act against Iran alone if necessary, Isaac Herzog tells Amb. Nides – The Jerusalem Post

December 5, 2021

Mossad chief leaves for Washington • Tehran must pay for its nuclear violations, Bennett says

 President Isaac Herzog meets with incoming US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides on December 5 in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

President Isaac Herzog meets with incoming US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides on December 5 in Jerusalem.

srael will act against Iran on its own should the international community fail to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomatic means, President Isaac Herzog warned the United States on Sunday.“If the international community does not take a vigorous stance on this issue, Israel will do so. Israel will protect itself,” Herzog told US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides during a small ceremony in which he accepted the American diplomat’s credentials.The two men met just two days after the seventh round of indirect talks between the US and Tehran to revive the 2015 Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) appeared to end in failure.Iran and the European Union have spoken of renewed talks next week, but the US has been uncertain these negotiations will take place in the near future.“We are closely following the international community’s recent negotiations with Iran,” Herzog said. IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim  Raisi visits the Bushehr nuclear  power plant, October 8 (credit: Official Presidential Website/Handout via Reuters)IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi visits the Bushehr nuclear power plant, October 8 (credit: Official Presidential Website/Handout via Reuters)Israel has opposed the deal and warned the US to halt the talks. Herzog clarified that Israel would “welcome a comprehensive, diplomatic solution which permanently solves the Iranian nuclear threat.”He stressed, however, “In the case of a failure to achieve such a solution, Israel is keeping all options on the table.”Nides told Herzog the US was committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.“We will continue to collaborate closely to advance peace and stability, and to counter the threat Iran poses to Israel and the region,” Nides said.“As President [Joe] Biden has made it very, very, clear, the United States is committed to ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” he added.Israel and the US are at odds over the Iran talks, with Israel opposing a return to the 2015 nuclear deal and the Biden administration supporting it.Mossad chief David Barnea is slated to leave late Sunday for Washington, followed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday, where they will discuss Iran with US officials.Last week Barnea echoed a statement similar to Herzog’s when he pledged that the Mossad would not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons.Israel wants to utilize the pause in the talks to influence US policy on the matter.Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on world powers to pressure Tehran to halt its enrichment of uranium prior to the resumption of another round of indirect talks in Vienna.“I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time,” Bennett told his weekly cabinet.“Our goal is to utilize the window of opportunity that has opened between the rounds in order to tell our friends in the US: This is precisely the time to use a different toolkit against Iran’s galloping forward in the enrichment sphere,” he said.“There is a time for everything. A time to keep silent and a time to speak up. Now is the time to speak up,” Bennett added.The Trump administration exited the Iran deal in 2018, and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted as a result of the deal.Biden has sought to revive the deal, which had also been signed by Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia and China.The European Union brokered six rounds of indirect talks between the US and Iran prior to the election of a new Iranian government in June led by President Ebrahim Raisi.European and US officials have said that during the seventh round of talks last week, the first with the new Iranian government, representatives of the Islamic Republic put new demands on the table and walked back the progress that had been made earlier in the year.Iran halted its compliance with the deal in 2019 and has inched toward the production of weapons-grade uranium.In his remarks to the weekly cabinet, Bennett accused Iran of taking an “aggressive and bullying approach” to “blackmail” the US into removing existing sanctions so it can fund its global terrorist activity through its pursuit of uranium enrichment.“We are holding an intensive dialogue on this matter with the Americans, the British, the French, Russia and others,” Bennett said.He pointed to a report released last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran “had begun to enrich up to 20% purity in advanced centrifuges at Fordow.” He added, “This is a very serious step,” and that “Iran must start paying for its violations.”He warned the US and the world power that a “bad deal with the Iranians will have implications for our national security.”Former prime minister Ehud Barak struck the opposite tone on Sunday in an opinion piece he published in the Hebrew website Ynet, in which he said that Israel should have supported the 2015 deal from the start and used the time to build a military “Plan B” that would have allowed it to attack Iran.A military plan would take years to prepare and would require massive US assistance, he said, as he cast doubt on whether Israel at present has such a plan.Barak urged Israeli leaders to resist empty threats, particularly with Iran just months away from becoming a nuclear threshold state.“This new reality calls for a sober evaluation and practical decisions, not empty rhetoric that may impress some in Israel but will carry no weight in Iran or among the world powers eager on reaching a deal with the Islamic Republic,” Barak wrote in his Ynet opinion piece.In the aftermath of the talks in Vienna that ended on Friday, both the US and Iran traded barbs over the collapse of the talks.The Biden administration wants Iran to commit to abide by the terms of the 2015 deal, which allowed it to enrich uranium only to 3.7%, instead of its current enrichment level that has reached 60%.Iran wants the US to lift its sanction prior to such an agreement, a move the US has refused.Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday charged that the failure to lift sanctions had doomed last week’s indirect talks in Vienna.“It is crystal clear that the US reluctance to fully drop the sanctions is the main challenge for the progress of negotiations,” a senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official told reporters on Sunday.“We believe that anytime the US administration abandons the maximum-pressure campaign, and Europeans demonstrate necessary political determination, the way will be opened for the swift attainment of an agreement,” the official said.“They are not willing in the first place to give such concessions which are clearly asserted by the #JCPOA,” the official said, adding that they are also “not willing to “re-negotiate” the matters that were propounded in last drafts.The Iranian Foreign Ministry official took note of Republican congressional threats that the US would once again renege on the deal, should their party gain the White House in 2024.Actions of the “Zionist regime” have also harmed the talks, the official said, refusing to refer to Israel by name.“We cautioned,” the official said, “that some external actors that are not pleased with the progress of the negotiations should not be allowed to include the progress of the talks by propagating lies and distorted reports.“It is quite normal that the Zionist regime is not pleased with the status quo,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry official said. Its media has “fabricated unfounded rumors and tried to negatively influence the atmosphere of the talks,” the Iranian official said.The official explained that in Vienna, the Iranian delegation had presented two draft proposals; one that dealt with the issue of sanctions and the second with its nuclear program. These drafts were based on the JCPOA and past rounds of negotiations, the official said.A senior US official told reporters on Saturday, “We’ve made clear that we’re prepared to lift all of the sanctions that are in consistence with the deal, but if Iran wants us to go beyond that, then of course, we’re talking about a different deal, and Iran would have to go beyond what it did at the time of the JCPOA. So that’s after that question.”The official said the US was “preparing for a world in which there is no return to the JCPOA,” but added, “It is not our preference.”Iran’s uranium enrichment, the US official said, has “troubling implications for whether the JCPOA can be revived. Our view is it still can be today; that’s President Biden’s view. That’s why we were in Vienna trying to work to get – to make sure that we could return to mutual compliance, but that can’t last forever.”Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, suggested that in order to pressure Iran, the Biden administration should “work with the UK, France and Germany to reimpose UN sanctions and restrictions on Iran at the Security Council.”The administration, he said, should also “press censure resolutions at the International Atomic Energy Agency, fully enforce economic sanctions and threaten military force if Iran moves closer to the threshold of nuclear weapons.”Goldberg added, however, that he feared that instead, the US would allow Iran to hold onto the nuclear gains it made in 2021, while providing it with sanctions relief.Former US ambassador Dennis Ross, who served as a special adviser to the Obama administration and a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also weighed in on the matter.Ross questioned how effective “additional pressure” might be unless the US has support from other signatories to the deal.“The key would be whether China goes along and no longer buys Iranian oil. That would truly build pressure.”In addition, he said, “The question will remain whether the administration will develop military options and rehearse them in a way that the Iranians see and therefore have reason to fear.”

PM: Iran can’t both negotiate and enrich uranium, must pay price for violating deal

December 5, 2021


Bennett says hiatus in talks should be used to convince US to deploy ‘a different basket of tools’

By TOI STAFFToday, 1:18 pm  

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that Iran must be penalized for violating the nuclear deal, and that Tehran must be told it cannot hold negotiations for a potential new agreement while it continues to enrich uranium.

“Iran must start paying the price for its violations,” Bennett said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, as he called on those engaged in talks with Tehran to “stick to a firm line and make it clear to Iran that it is impossible to simultaneously enrich uranium and negotiate.”

Bennett also said that the Iranians were negotiating “skillfully.”

“The goal of the Iranian regime is the removal of sanctions, and so they came to [the nuclear talks in] Vienna with dozens of advisers and experts in the field of sanctions, because that is their goal,” he said. “They want the ability to do what they are doing now — in the fields of terrorism and nukes — but with the backing of tens of billions of dollars.”

Bennett added, “During the talks in Vienna we got an example of the nuclear blackmail I was talking about when it was reported that [Iran] had started enriching uranium by 20 percent in advanced centrifuges in the underground facility in Fordo. This is a very serious step.”Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

He was referring to his conversation last week with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during which, the Prime Minister’s Office said, the premier told Blinken that Iran was utilizing “nuclear blackmail” as a tactic and that the United States should therefore immediately stop negotiations.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, in Stockholm, Sweden, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Jonathan Nackstrand/Pool Photo via AP)

The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that Iran had begun the process of enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges at its Fordo plant in what would be a further violation of the multilateral nuclear accord that world powers are rushing to salvage.

Bennett also said that the window between rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers should be used to get the United States to utilize “a different basket of tools” against Tehran.

Nuclear negotiations in Vienna came to a halt on Friday with Western countries saying Iran had come to the talks with unrealistic proposals.

The landmark 2015 nuclear accord — initially agreed upon by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and Iran — began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, while Iran began to publicly breach the deal. Israel has vowed that it will not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons.

Senior Israeli officials have criticized the approach of the United States to nuclear talks with Iran, but see the current pause in discussions as a window of opportunity to influence the negotiations, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.

Mossad chief David Barnea was due to travel Sunday to Washington to discuss Iran with senior Biden administration officials.Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Haaretz reported that Barnea will attempt to convince the US leadership not to seek an interim deal that would not see Iran return to full compliance with the agreement, and instead try to enlist international support for tough sanctions on Tehran.

The spy chief will stress that if an agreement with Iran is ultimately reached, Israel will not be bound by it and will continue with efforts to thwart the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work, according to the Ynet news site. Barnea also reportedly plans to present the Americans with new information on Iran’s program.

Additionally, Defense Minister Benny Gantz will visit the US later in the week for talks with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin as well as with Blinken, which are also expected to focus on Iran.

Bennett’s comments at the cabinet meeting came a day after a blast in the vicinity of an Iranian nuclear site. The explosion on Saturday was heard in the skies over the Iranian city of Badroud, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Natanz nuclear plant.Various centrifuge machines line a hall at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, on April 17, 2021. (screenshot, Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting – IRIB, via AP)

Several media outlets said the explosion was not an attack, but rather was caused by a missile as part of a test of air defenses’ response to a potential attack. Some of the reports said a drone was shot down.

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster on Sunday refrained from directly answering questions about a blast in the vicinity of an Iranian nuclear site a day earlier, only asserting he “can’t say” what hit Natanz.

“We hope the whole world will be mobilized for the mission. For that, we’ve allocated a significant sum to increase our readiness. What hit Natanz? I can’t say,” Schuster said.

Israel has reportedly approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites.

Explosion heard near Iranian nuclear site Natanz

December 5, 2021

Here’s hoping it was a big one, and due to the efforts of Mossad…

5 December 2021

Conflicting reports emerge about nature of the blast, which occurred as Tehran is negotiating to restore 2015 nuclear deal

https://www.foxnews.com/world/explosion-heard-near-iranian-nuclear-site-natanz

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. 

TEHRAN, Iran — An explosion shook the area near Iran’s main nuclear-enrichment plant late on Saturday, prompting conflicting explanations from Iranian officials as Tehran engages in talks with world powers over its nuclear program.

The blast was heard in the area of Badroud, around 12 miles from the Natanz nuclear site, according to IRNA, Iran’s state news agency. The incident involved a sound and then a flash of light in the sky, reported Fars News Agency, an organization close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Natanz has been the site of attacks and sabotage in the past, but Iran didn’t immediately place blame on any foreign government and sent differing signals about what happened after reports of the explosion circulated in local media.

An Iranian army spokesman played down the explosion on state television, saying a missile system had been test fired and there was no reason to be concerned. A news agency close to Iran’s security forces, Tasnim, cited sources saying that a hostile drone had activated defense systems on Saturday night.

Natanz Governor Ramezanali Ferdowsi said the explosion occurred at 8:15 p.m. local time and caused no casualties or financial damage, according to Iran’s official student news agency ISNA.

Iran has carried out periodic tests of its defense capabilities in central parts of Iran, including around nuclear sites in Isfahan, Arak, Fordo and Natanz.

The U.S. National Security Council declined to comment on the reports.

The reports come a day after the latest round of talks in Vienna between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stalled. The negotiations are intended to agree on the steps Iran and the U.S. will take to return into compliance with the accord, which lifted most international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for strict but temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear work.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has called on Europe and the U.S. to stop the negotiations and in recent weeks, his government has stepped up warnings that it could act militarily against Iran’s nuclear work. Israel, which views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, opposed the 2015 deal. Iran has accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear facilities, which Israel hasn’t accepted responsibility for.

Mr. Bennett spoke by phone on Thursday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and urged the U.S. to immediately end its talks with Iran over its “nuclear blackmail,” according to the prime minister’s office.

Natanz has been targeted before. In April, Iran said saboteurs caused a blackout at the country’s main nuclear-enrichment plant there, which diplomats have said destroyed several thousand centrifuges, machines for enriching uranium. Iran accused Israel of attempting to derail informal talks with the U.S. on reviving the nuclear deal.

Last year, an explosion at Natanz caused damage to a building identified by experts and diplomats as an advanced centrifuge assembly plant. The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said that it had been informed about the blast by Iranian authorities who said the cause was unknown.

US official: Iran backtracked on all compromises; we’re preparing for no deal

December 5, 2021


Official warns more sanctions likely if Iran kills negotiations, says China and Russia were also taken aback; Mossad chief heads to Washington for talks as nuclear crisis deepens

By AFP and JACOB MAGID4 December 2021, 9:52 pmUpdated at 1:27 am  

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021 (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021 (Joe Klamar/AFP)

A US official said Saturday that Iran had backed away from all its previous compromises on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal and that the US would not allow Iran to “slow walk” the international negotiations while at the same time ramping up its atomic activities.

The warning came a day after Washington hit out at Iran, saying talks with world powers on a return to the 2015 nuclear accord had stalled because Tehran “does not seem to be serious.”

“We can’t accept a situation in which Iran accelerates its nuclear program and slow walks its nuclear diplomacy,” said a senior US administration official — echoing a recent warning by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Speaking to reporters after returning from the Austrian capital, the official said Washington was not yet planning to walk away from the indirect talks that it resumed with Tehran last week in Vienna, but hoped Iran would return “with a serious attitude.”

In this week’s talks, said the official, Iran backtracked on all the compromises it had made in months of previous talks on reviving the accord, while retaining the compromises made by others and seeking more.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

Iran came to Vienna “with proposals that walked back anything – any of the compromises Iran had floated here in the six rounds of talks, pocket all of the compromises that others, and the US in particular, had made, and then asked for more”, the senior official was quoted saying by Reuters.

He said it was not clear when the talks would resume, and that Washington was “preparing for a world in which there is no return to the JCPOA,” a reference to the deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Russia and China “also were quite taken aback by the degree to which Iran had walked back its own compromises and then doubled down on the requests that it (made),” he said. “They do share a sense of disappointment, to put it diplomatically.”

He said more sanctions would likely come if Washington concludes that Iran had killed the negotiations.

In Vienna “Iran did not show the posture of a country that is seriously thinking of a rapid return” to the accord aimed at putting curbs on its nuclear program, said the official.The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

He spoke as the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency prepared to head to Washington in the coming days for talks with top administration officials.

The Haaretz newspaper reported that David Barnea will seek to convince the US leadership not to seek an interim deal with Iran that would not see Tehran return to full compliance with the deal.

According to Channel 12, Barnea plans to present the Americans with new information on Iran’s program.

The seventh round of nuclear talks ended Friday after five days in Vienna, with delegations returning to their national capitals and expected to go back to Austria next week.

Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said the talks were paused “since the opposite side needed to consult with their capitals to provide a documented and reasonable response to these [Iranian] proposals.” He said the negotiations would resume in the middle of next week.

Blinken said Friday that the negotiations were halted because “Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance.”

And European diplomats expressed “disappointment and concern” after Iran submitted two draft proposals that appeared to undo months of dialogue.

Iran had paused the talks in June following the election of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a live interview in Tehran, Iran, broadcast on state-run TV, on Monday, October 18, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The official argued Saturday that the US had shown patience in allowing a five-month break in the process, but that during that time the Iranians were “continuing to accelerate their nuclear program in particularly provocative ways.”

When Tehran finally returned to the table on Monday, he said, it was “with proposals that walked back any of the compromises that Iran had floated during the six rounds of talks.”

He accused Iran of seeking to “pocket all of the compromises that others — the US in particular — had made and then ask for more.”

The official said he believed countries that are close to Iran were also vexed by Tehran’s positions at the recent talks.

“I think we’re seeing very clearly that countries around the world are now more and more aware of the fact that Iran is taking a position which is inconsistent with their stated goals of a return to the JCPOA and their accelerated nuclear program is Exhibit A in that,” he said.The flag of Iran waves in front of the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)

The official said it was not yet known when the European Union coordinator would reconvene the parties, but that the date “matters far less to us than whether Iran will come back with a serious attitude, prepared to negotiate seriously. ”

At this stage, he said the US will pursue its efforts at diplomacy — but reasserted it has “other tools” at its disposal should negotiations fail.

He added: “The time that the JCPOA has for still remaining a viable deal is inversely proportional to the speed with which Iran advances its nuclear program. If they choose to accelerate the nuclear program as they seem to have done of late, then there’d be less time left for the JCPOA to be resurrected.”

The landmark 2015 nuclear accord — initially agreed between Britain, China, France, Germany Iran, Russia and the US — began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to start exceeding limits on its nuclear program the following year.

US President Joe Biden has said he wants to re-enter the deal, and the US has been participating in this week’s talks indirectly.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Asked by The Times of Israel whether a rift with Israel was growing amid Jerusalem’s fierce opposition to the ongoing nuclear talks, the senior State Department official was dismissive.

“We may have some differences. That’s natural…We understand that we’re situated differently and sometimes have different ways of approaching it, but our goal is the same… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” the official said.

“I think this comes at an interesting time where we’re seeing… soul searching, or interesting reflections in Israel by former senior officials about the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and what it has meant,” the official continued, referencing a recent interview the former head of the Iran research division of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate gave to The Times of Israel in which he called Israel’s Iran policy of recent years “a failure.”

“What it has meant is it has opened the door for an unconstrained, uncontrolled Iranian nuclear program, which obviously was not the case while the US and Iran were both in compliance with the deal,” the official added.

Asked whether the US feels like it needs to calm the Israelis so they don’t take matters in their own hands against Iran, the senior State Department official said, “We don’t view our job as trying to calm Israel down…Israel as a sovereign country will make its own decisions.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Mossad chief heads to US as Iran nuclear talks stall

December 5, 2021


David Barnea to reportedly press top Biden administration officials not to seek an interim deal, is also expected to present Americans with new intel on Iranian nuke program

By TOI STAFFToday, 6:03 amUpdated at 7:55 am  

Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Mossad chief David Barnea at a ceremony marking his taking the helm of the agency, on June 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Mossad chief David Barnea was due to travel Sunday to Washington to discuss Iran with senior Biden administration officials.

The trip comes days after the halt of renewed negotiations to restore the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, with the United States saying the Iranians did not appear serious about reaching an agreement.

The Haaretz daily reported that Barnea will seek to convince the US leadership not to seek an interim deal that would not see Iran return to full compliance with the agreement, and instead seek to enlist international support for tough sanctions on Tehran.

The newspaper said the meetings have been described as “extremely significant.”

The spy chief will stress that if an agreement with Iran is ultimately reached, Israel will not be bound by it and will continue with efforts to thwart the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work, according to the Ynet news site.Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top storiesNewsletter email addressGET ITBy signing up, you agree to the terms

Barnea, who will be acting as an emissary for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, also reportedly plans to present the Americans with new information on Iran’s program.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will visit the US later in the week for talks also expected to focus on Iran.

Barnea’s trip follows his vow Thursday that Iran will never acquire nuclear arms. He also said a bad deal between Tehran and world powers would be “intolerable” for Israel.The flag of Iran waves in front of the the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, AustriaI, May 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, FILE)

Senior Israeli officials have criticized the approach of the United States to nuclear talks with Iran, but see the current pause in discussions as a window of opportunity to influence the negotiations, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.

An unnamed source told the newspaper that the US was surprised by how extreme Iran’s demands were in the restarted talks last week, with Tehran insisting on a list of conditions for returning to a nuclear agreement as well as the lifting of all sanctions and a pledge that they will not be reimposed in the near future.

Sources further said that removing the threat of sanctions would leave the international community without one of the most significant tools it has for keeping Iran to any potential deal.

However, a separate political source told Haaretz that they increasingly believed that the talks would not reach an immediate agreement, but that instead there would be an easing of current commitments.

“In the coming days we will see if the world powers go in the direction of a crisis with Iran or in the direction of flexibility,” he said.

On Saturday, a US official said Iran had backed away from all its previous compromises on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact and that Iran would not be allowed to “slow walk” the international negotiations while simultaneously ramping up its atomic activities, as well as dismissing a rift with Israel on the matter of the discussions.

“We can’t accept a situation in which Iran accelerates its nuclear program and slow walks its nuclear diplomacy,” said the senior US administration official — echoing a recent warning by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Speaking to reporters after returning from Vienna, the official said Washington was not yet planning to walk away from the indirect talks that it resumed with Tehran last week in the Austrian capital, but hoped Iran would return “with a serious attitude.”

In this week’s talks, said the official, Iran backtracked on all the compromises it had made in months of previous talks on reviving the accord, while retaining the compromises made by others and seeking more.

Iran came to Vienna “with proposals that walked back anything – any of the compromises Iran had floated here in the six rounds of talks, pocket all of the compromises that others, and the US in particular, had made, and then asked for more,” the senior official was quoted as saying by Reuters.

He said it was not clear when the talks would resume, and that Washington was “preparing for a world in which there is no return to the JCPOA,” a reference to the deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He said more sanctions would likely come if Washington concludes that Iran had killed the negotiations.

The seventh round of nuclear talks ended Friday after five days in Vienna, with delegations returning to their national capitals and expected to go back to Austria this week.Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is seen leaving the Coburg Palais, venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meeting aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna, on December 3, 2021 (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Iran’s lead negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said the talks were paused “since the opposite side needed to consult with their capitals to provide a documented and reasonable response to these [Iranian] proposals.”

Blinken said Friday that the negotiations were halted because “Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance.”

European diplomats expressed “disappointment and concern” after Iran submitted two draft proposals that appeared to undo months of dialogue.

Iran had paused the talks in June following the election of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.

The official argued Saturday that the US had shown patience in allowing a five-month break in the process, but that during that time the Iranians were “continuing to accelerate their nuclear program in particularly provocative ways.”

When Tehran finally returned to the table on Monday, he said, it was “with proposals that walked back any of the compromises that Iran had floated during the six rounds of talks.”

He accused Iran of seeking to “pocket all of the compromises that others — the US in particular — had made and then ask for more.”The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Iran nuclear talks, is pictured in Vienna, on November 29, 2021. (Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

The official said he believed countries that are close to Iran were also vexed by Tehran’s positions at the recent talks.

At this stage, he said the US will pursue its efforts at diplomacy — but reasserted it has “other tools” at its disposal should negotiations fail.

The landmark 2015 nuclear accord — initially agreed between Britain, China, France, Germany Iran, Russia and the US — began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, prompting Iran to start exceeding limits on its nuclear program the following year.

US President Joe Biden has said he wants to re-enter the deal, and the US has been participating in this week’s talks indirectly.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Agencies contributed to this report.