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January 4, 2023 5:00 pm
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‘Whatever It Takes’: Israeli Defense Chief Presses US on Iran Threat

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a NATO Defense Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant held their first phone call Wednesday, focusing on Iran and Middle East regional security.

“I emphasized to him Israel’s commitment to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while noting the need for the international community to act on the issue,” Gallant said.

Confronting the threat from Iran has been a point of increasing commonality in bilateral calls between US and Israeli officials since the election of Israel’s new government in November, including in President Biden’s congratulatory call to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday.

US officials have been increasingly skeptical of the possibility of a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In November, President Joe Biden was filmed telling a woman during a campaign stop that the deal was “dead.”

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State Department Spokesman Ned Price at a briefing on Tuesday said that Iran has engaged in “foot-dragging and empty promises” on returning to the Iran deal – since September.

We’re always in intensive and constant discussion with Israel on Iran, including on Iran’s nuclear program,” Price added. “Even though the JCPOA hasn’t been on the agenda for months, what is very much alive is President Biden’s absolute commitment to never allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal, but we’ve always been clear we’re not going to remove options from the table, and we’re going to discuss all options with our partners, including, of course, Israel.”

The shared tenor between the US and Israel over Iran contrasts with the differing attitude the two governments take toward the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Speaking to his subordinates for the first time Monday, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen said the new government intends to speak less in public about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Asked about the policy of the new government on Tuesday, Price said that was a decision for Israel to make.

“Israel, of course, has a relationship with Ukraine. Israel has a relationship with Russia. Israel’s relationship with Russia looks different from the relationship the United States has with Russia. That’s okay,” he said.

Follow Algemeiner Washington Correspondent Andrew Bernard on Twitter @AndrewJBernie

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