Israeli Defense Minister in US to discuss nuclear talks with Iran

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister said Friday it is important to maintain capabilities for “defensive and offensive purposes” when he met with a senior US official to reiterate Israel’s opposition to a looming nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel strongly opposes attempts by world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and says it is not bound by the deal currently under discussion. Neither Israel nor the United States have ruled out military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that Israel opposes the emerging agreement, which has not yet been finalized or released to the public.

Gantz “emphasized the importance of maintaining and promoting operational capabilities for both defensive and offensive purposes in light of Iran’s nuclear program and regional aggression,” a statement from the Defense Ministry said.

“This is separate from the discussion surrounding the agreement,” it added.

A US statement said the two officials discussed the “US commitment to ensure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon and the need to counter threats from Iran and Iran-based proxies.”

Israel is widely believed to have acquired nuclear weapons decades ago, but has never admitted to having them.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program has purely peaceful purposes. Under the 2015 agreement with the world powers, it has curbed its nuclear activities and allowed extensive surveillance of its facilities in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and reinstated crippling sanctions against Iran, which then began ramping up its nuclear activities.

Experts say Iran has enriched enough uranium to 60% purity — a short technical step from 90% weapon grade levels — to make one nuclear weapon, should it decide to do so. However, Iran would still have to design a bomb and a delivery system, which would likely take months.

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