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World News | US defense secretary’s visit to Israel reveals divisions over Iran

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JERUSALEM, March 9 (AP) – A long-running disagreement between the Biden administration and Israel over how to stop Iran’s rapidly accelerating nuclear program spilled into the public eye Thursday as the U.S. defense secretary met with his Israeli counterpart during a visit to Israel. Tehran’s nuclear ambition state is discussed.

Even as efforts to revive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal stalled for months, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin insisted in comments in Tel Aviv that “diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon”.

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant made no mention of the moribund nuclear talks, telling Austin instead: “We must take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” He appeared to imply that Israel could take military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Iran’s nuclear threat requires that we prepare for every course of action,” Grant said, repeating it twice for emphasis.

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The difference between their statements reveals the different attitudes of these countries towards Iran.

During Biden’s tenure as vice president, then-President Barack Obama spearheaded the 2015 nuclear deal, which exempted Iran from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposed the agreement, saying it did not contain sufficient safeguards and did not address Iran’s non-nuclear aggression in the region.

Tehran has gradually increased its enrichment of uranium, expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium and developing advanced centrifuges after former President Donald Trump abandoned the atomic deal and imposed tough sanctions on Iran. UN experts say Iran has enriched uranium to 84 percent purity, just below weapons grade, although they say Iran is still months away from being able to manufacture weapons.

After taking office, Biden promised that the United States would rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Iran if Tehran abided by the agreement’s strict limits on its nuclear program. But attempts to restore the agreement failed.

Meanwhile, Israel is engaged in a years-long shadow war with its arch-enemy Iran that has spread to the wider Middle East. Since returning to office late last year, Netanyahu has publicly advocated military action against Iran. Israel is believed to have carried out a series of covert sabotage and targeted killings in an effort to weaken Iran’s fortifications in the region and slow its ability to enrich its nuclear fuel.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the ayatollah’s dream is never realized at any cost,” Grant said.

U.S. and European officials say efforts to revive the nuclear deal have effectively been suspended after Tehran violently cracked down on protests across the country and sold Russia armed drones that were used in Moscow’s war on Ukraine – the decision Allow Austin to say that Iran will receive “unprecedented defense cooperation, including missile and air defense,” from Russia.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has also exposed stubborn differences between the two close allies. While Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has rejected frequent requests from Kiev to supply Ukraine with air defense systems and other weapons. It has also refrained from imposing tough economic sanctions for fear of undermining key ties with Moscow.

Russia and Israel have enjoyed a good working relationship for years and have coordinated closely to avoid conflict over Israel’s northeast neighbor Syria, where Russian air power supports embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Austin on Thursday appeared to urge Israel to do more to support Ukraine in the grinding war, pointing to growing military ties between Iran and Russia.

“We call on all of our allies and partners to come forward at this pivotal moment in history,” he said. “Countries of good will, especially our democracies, must urgently do their part to help Ukraine fight for free.”

Grant was vague when asked by reporters what conditions Israel would need to provide military aid to Ukraine.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “We’re doing this with an understanding of Israel’s interests in the region.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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