CIA Chief to Arrive in Israel as U.S. Reportedly Mulls Alternatives to Iran Nuke Deal

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 24: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, attends the Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, in Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL

CIA Director William Burns will arrive in Israel on Tuesday amid speculation the Biden administration is considering alternative ways to curb Iran’s nuclear program following a freeze in negotiations to return to the tattered 2015 nuclear deal.

According to Bloomberg news, the U.S. is considering the possibility of easing sanctions on Iran in return for freezing its uranium enrichment.

Iran has in recent months begun enriching uranium to 60 percent — a short step from weapons grade — and blocked access to its nuclear sites by representatives from the U.N.’s nuclear agency IAEA.

Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tehran had enough enriched uranium to build a bomb in ten weeks.

“Iran has violated all of the guidelines set in the JCPOA and is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” Gantz told ambassadors from countries on the United Nations Security Council.

Iran is at the top of Burns’s agenda for his Israel visit this week, the Jerusalem Post reported, with meetings lined up with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Mossad Director David Barnea.

The indirect talks in Vienna to return to the nuclear deal hit a snag when hardliner Ebrahim Raisi became Iran’s president.

In his first talk with a Western leader, Raisi on Monday told French President Emmanuel Macron that the U.S. had “clearly violated [its] obligations by imposing new sanctions.”

Raisi also indirectly referred to maritime escalations after an Israeli-operated oil tanker was attacked by Iranian drones last week, killing two crewmen – a Briton and a Romanian.

“The Islamic Republic is very serious about providing security and maintaining deterrence in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman Region,” Raisi told Macron.

The attack, which the U.S. has vowed to respond to, further complicates any return to a nuclear deal.

Still, Israel is preparing for such a scenario, the Jerusalem Post reported, with Bennett’s diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir and National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata visiting Washington last week.

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