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US and Israel pledged to deny Iran nuclear weapons

Washington and Israel have separately made veiled statements about possible preemptive war with Iran as a last resort to deny the country nuclear weapons.

Thursday’s statement, made ahead of a formal signing ceremony, reaffirmed US support for Israel’s regional military edge and ability “to defend itself by itself”. It stressed that the US acknowledges that integral to the pledge is the commitment to not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.

In 2015, an international deal capping Iranian nuclear projects with bomb-making potential was signed. In 2018, then United States President Donald Trump quit the pact, deeming it insufficient. Weaponry with nuclear capability that would take years to develop surfaced almost overnight as the deal was nulled.

Iran has since ramped up some nuclear activities, putting a ticking clock on world powers’ bid to return to a deal in Vienna talks. Israel now says it would support a new deal with tougher provisions. Iran has balked at submitting to further curbs.

Earlier on Thursday, Biden told reporters he and Lapid had discussed how important it was for Israel to be totally integrated into the region. Lapid, in turn, deemed Biden’s Saudi trip “extremely important to Israel”.

Some Israeli, as well as Gulf Arab officials, believe the nuclear deal’s sanctions relief would provide Iran with far more money to support proxy forces in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. They are also sceptical about whether the Biden administration will do much to counter Iran’s regional activities.

When asked if Thursday’s declaration was about buying some time with Israel as Washington pursues negotiations with Iran, a US official said: “If Iran wants to sign the deal that has been negotiated in Vienna, we have made very clear we’re prepared to do that. And, at the same time, if they’re not, we will continue to increase our sanctions pressure, we will continue to increase Iran’s diplomatic isolation.”

A senior Israeli official described the threat of military action as a means of avoiding war.
The Jerusalem Declaration further committed the United States and Israel to cooperate on defence projects such as laser interceptors, as well as on civilian technologies.
The United States was open to future defence grants to Israel, the statement said, reaffirming Washington’s interest in reviving talks on an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution.

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