Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has joined the State Department's Iran team as a senior adviser, a senior State Department official told Barak Ravid of Axios on Sunday.
The appointment is significant given that Israel is pressing the Biden administration to start discussing a “Plan B” in case diplomacy with Iran fails. Shapiro, who has a personal relationship with many Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is equipped to play a key role in any such talks.
His portfolio will be the regional aspects of the Iranian issue and coordination with Israel, according to Ravid’s report.
Shapiro went through a security clearance process and started working last week as a “part-time senior adviser” to US envoy for Iran Rob Malley, a senior State Department official told Axios.
Shapiro was in Washington ahead of the Biden-Bennett meeting and advised the State Department on several issues, though he did not meet the Israeli delegation, a source familiar with the issue said.
State Department officials say Shapiro will spend half of his time in Washington and half in Israel, where he'll work out of the US embassy.
One of his main missions will be to engage in discussions with the Prime Minister’s office, foreign ministry and ministry of defense to enhance coordination and allow a more intimate dialogue about Iran.
A senior State Department official told Axios that Malley recruited Shapiro as part of his commitment to receiving a broad range of views about Iran. Although he supported the 2015 deal, Shapiro takes a more centrist approach to Iran.
“Dan’s experience and knowledge of the region and the fact that people in the region know him will help us in thinking about the regional aspects of the Iranian issue and will contribute a lot to our coordination with Israel," the State Department official told the news website.
Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018, but has been holding indirect talks with the US on a return to the deal.
While the Islamic Republic has been holding indirect talks with the Biden administration on a return to the agreement, it recently paused the talks and announced they will not resume before the new Iranian government takes office.
US officials recently said that if diplomacy fails, the US will consider using other means to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, though they not specify what exactly the administration would consider.
Biden made similar remarks during his meeting with Bennett this past Friday.