TEHRAN (Iran News) – CIA chief meets grumbling Israelis ahead of Vienna talks. The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, met with Israel’s leaders to discuss a variety of issues, including Iran, amid growing tensions between Iran and Israel in the wake of a suspicious attack on an Israeli-operated oil tanker near the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. spy chief met with the head of the Mossad spy agency David Barnea on Tuesday night. During the meeting, the two sides discussed “the Iranian nuclear issue and additional regional challenges about which the organizations intend to cooperate,” according to a statement by the Israeli premiership.
On Wednesday, Burns met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Tel Aviv. “The two discussed tightening intelligence and security cooperation between Israel and the U.S., as well as the situation in the Middle East, especially Iran, and possibilities for expanding and deepening regional cooperation,” the premier’s office statement added.
A number of other senior intelligence, military, and political officials such as Barnea, incoming National Security Council head Eyal Hulata, the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil and diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir also attended the meeting.
Burns is slated to pay a visit to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet Palestinian leaders, something that suggests the U.S. spy chief’s visit is not focused on one single issue. However, Israeli media outlets highlighted the Iran issue in the talks Burns held with the Israeli officials.
These outlets even resorted to unsourced reports to libel the new Iranian president, Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi. Israel’s Channel 12 claimed in an unsourced report that the Mossad chief presented Burns with information allegedly indicating that the Iranian president is untrustworthy and incapable of negotiating a new nuclear deal or sticking to his commitments, according to the Times of Israel.
This came at a time when the U.S. government has largely remained silent on the agenda of the CIA director during his visit to Israel.
The Israelis feel increasingly isolated on Iran as Washington and Tehran prepare to return to Vienna in the coming weeks to overcome the remaining issues relating to the process of resuscitating a 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The last round of JCPOA talks was held before Iran’s presidential elections in June with some key differences remained unresolved. The Vienna talks were stalled due in part to the transition period in Iran. The U.S. continued insistence on the preservation of sanctions and its refusal to give guarantees that it will not withdraw from the nuclear deal again were among the reasons for the stumbling of the talks.
A few weeks after the conclusion of the sixth round of talks, the U.S. and its European allies began pressuring Iran to return to Vienna. But Iranian diplomats have asked for more time until after the transition.
With the transition period is almost done, Iran seems to be poised to resume the Vienna talks. In a recent phone conversation with French President Emanuel Macron, Ayatollah Raisi implied that there would be another round of negotiations. “In any negotiation, the rights of the Iranian people must be upheld and the interests of our nation must be ensured,” he told Macron.
Iran is also in the process of recalibrating its negotiating strategy, with a reconsideration of the outcome of the previous rounds of talks looming large on the horizon. And this is of much concern to Israel, which is using everything in its power, from orchestrating false flag operations on the high seas to intensifying tensions with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, to cajole the U.S. into giving up on diplomacy with Iran.
The Israelis seem to be concerned about the resumption of nuclear talks. They are seeking to persuade the U.S. that it’s of no use negotiating with the new president of Iran. “Israel warned the American visitor that Iran’s strategy now is to place obstacles on the path to diplomacy with endless ploys so as to play for time to consummate its nuclear weapons program,” Israel’s DEBKAfile website, known for its closeness to the Israeli intelligence community, said of Burns’ visit to Tel Aviv.
Over the past few weeks, the U.S has enlisted the help of Israel in ramping up pressure on Iran in a bid to make it return to the Vienna talks. This included American corroboration of Israel’s unfounded claims that Iran attacked the M/V Mercer Street ship and attempted to highjack a number of commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Iran strongly denied any involvement in all of these alleged incidents.
During the hiatus in the nuclear talks, a sort of convergence emerged between Tel Aviv and Washington. But once the talks are resumed a divergence would be in the cards. Because the U.S. stated goal is to get the JCPOA revived in the near future while Israel works to prevent any deal between Iran and the U.S. And this is all the more reason why the U.S. needs to be careful about Israeli sabotage.