As nuclear negotiations in Vienna get closer to a decision point, the US and Israel held strategic talks on Iran Wednesday led by their respective national security advisers, Israeli and US officials told Barak Ravid of Axios.
The officials said the secure video conference included discussions of the state of play in Vienna and the strategy moving forward.
During the talks, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that while the US is committed to diplomacy, it is preparing other options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon should negotiations fail, the White House said in a statement.
The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment for this story.
Biden administration officials have set the end of January or beginning of February as an unofficial deadline for the talks, in large part because they believe Iran's nuclear advances will soon render the 2015 deal ineffective, noted Ravid.
Senior Israeli officials told Ravid that even after Wednesday’s talks, they remain concerned that the Ukraine crisis will take international attention away from the Iran nuclear crisis and make it harder for the US and Russia to cooperate on this issue.
Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.
However, it has held several rounds of indirect talks with the US on reviving the deal. The talks are being mediated by the remaining five countries that are party to the deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian this week signaled a willingness by Iran to engage directly with the US in discussions over the deal if necessary to reach a satisfactory agreement.
A State Department spokesperson later said the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program.
"We are prepared to meet directly," the spokesperson said, adding, "We have long held the position that it would be more productive to engage with Iran directly, on both JCPOA negotiations and other issues.”
The Islamic Republic has repeatedly demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again as a precondition for its returning to compliance with the deal.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday once again stressed that an agreement with the United States over the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers is possible if sanctions on Iran are lifted.