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US, Israel adopt tough tone on Iran

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-10-15 10:28

Washington echoes ally by hinting at force if nuclear diplomacy fails

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaks at bilateral meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 13, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON-The United States hinted on Wednesday that it could resort to force if diplomacy fails for Iran's nuclear program, rallying closer than ever to warnings by Israel.

Amid a standstill in negotiations with Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced growing frustration as he held three-way talks with the top diplomats of Israel and the United Arab Emirates-two US allies in the Middle East that established relations last year.

Blinken renewed US President Joe Biden's offer to reenter a 2015 nuclear deal, trashed in 2018 by former president Donald Trump, in which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear activity in return for unfulfilled promises of sanctions relief.

"We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way," said Blinken during a joint news conference in Washington.

"But it takes two to engage in diplomacy and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point. We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course."

Blinken did not elaborate on these options, but Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that these could be easily understood.

"I think everybody understands-here in Israel and in the Emirates and in Teheran-what it is that we mean," Lapid said of Blinken's comments.

The phrase "all options" is typically intended to include the possibility-however remote-of military action, reported Reuters.

However, Lapid was more explicit. "Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment in any way. That is not only our right. It is also our responsibility," he said.

Iran has long denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.

Urgent visit

Enrique Mora, the European Union's envoy in charge of reviving the troubled deal, visited Teheran on Thursday. He earlier tweeted that he would "raise the urgency" of resuming talks.

Diplomats from the United Kingdom, France and Germany, a group known as the E3, said the visit came at a critical time as Iran keeps advancing its nuclear program, according to a report by Reuters.

Talks were held earlier this year in Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement-Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia-with the US taking part indirectly. The talks have been on hold since a June election in Iran, which led to a change of president.

"We feel like coming back would still be the best outcome, but we're realistic," said Rob Malley, the US negotiator on Iran, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "We know that there's at least a good possibility that Iran is going to choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and with our other partners in the region."

Malley said he would head to the UAE, as well as to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in the coming days.

'Hostile neighborhood'

Iran has said repeatedly that it is ready to resume talks "soon", but no date has been announced, reported Western media.

Teheran believes it needs to defend itself in a hostile neighborhood, with memories still vivid of the brutal 1980-88 war launched by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with backing from the West.

An attack on Iran is likely to be the very last resort for Biden, who ended the war in Afghanistan with vows to shift away from military solutions.

But Israel has already been engaged in a shadow war with Iran, targeting its military sites in ally Syria and carrying out a sabotage campaign inside Iran against its nuclear program.

Israel has also rejoiced at a breakthrough with some Arab states, normalizing ties in quick succession last year with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in a signature achievement for Trump and former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Agencies - Xinhua

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