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US defense officials hold back-to-back meetings with Israeli, Saudi leaders to discuss Iran

Israeli defense minister visits DC for talks with White House officials as nuclear talks with Iran are at stalemate and the IAEA agreement with Tehran is set to expire

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz meets with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III in the Pentagon, May 19, 2022 (Photo: Shmulik Almany)

Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with American security officials for talks that focused on the nuclear threat from Iran one day after meeting with the Saudi defense minister.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted Gantz on Thursday, a day after they met with Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman.

The timing of the meetings has raised speculation that Israel is coordinating a strategy for Iran with both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, as the nuclear talks with world powers seem to be at a stalemate.

However, several reports have indicated that the nuclear deal’s revival could come in early June, around the time when an existing agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Tehran is set to expire.

According to Gantz's office, he and Sullivan met in the White House and discussed “Iran’s progression in its nuclear program alongside its destabilizing regional activities, and emphasized the need to work closely and prepare for any future scenario.”

The meeting readout added that this would be conducted within the framework of Israel’s “excellent defense cooperation with the U.S. and growing ties with regional partners.”

In the Pentagon, Gantz told Austin: “We must act decisively against Iran’s mounting regional aggression in a variety of ways - this includes strengthening a practical coalition under U.S. leadership together with regional partners.”

Gantz stressed that there is a critical need for a practical coalition under U.S. leadership, together with regional partners in facing Iran. He thanked Austin for his support for the recent passing of the $4.8 billion Israel security package.

Before flying to the United States, the defense minister said on Tuesday that Iran stands “a few weeks away from accumulating fissile material that will suffice for a first bomb.” Gantz added that Iran is currently trying to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges, including at a new underground facility being built near Natanz.

"Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production and operation of advanced centrifuges,” he said.

According to Gantz, Israeli assessments indicate that Iran holds 60 kilograms of enriched material at 60% purity level and produces metallic uranium at a enrichment level of 20%, all while preventing the International Atomic Energy Agency's access to the production sites.

In their meeting, Gantz also debriefed Sullivan on the recent wave of terror in Israel that has claimed 19 lives. They discussed Israel’s ongoing operational activities in face of incitement and terror.

Gantz told Sullivan that “Israel will take the measures necessary to defend its citizens and sovereignty.”

He added that Israel’s defense establishment is continuing its policy of promoting confidence-building measures vis-a-vis Palestinian civilians that are not involved with terror activity.

Participating with the Israeli delegation were Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog; Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Dror Shalom, head of the Defense Ministry's political security division; Gantz's Chief of Staff Maayan Israeli; and his military secretary, Brig.-Gen. Yaki Dolf.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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