US and Israel sign joint pledge to deny Iran nuclear weapons


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US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday will sign a joint agreement pledging to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon on the second day of Biden’s Middle East trip.

In a conference call, a senior Biden administration official described the joint declaration to reporters. He said that the agreement would expand the long-standing security relationship between Israel and the United States.

“This declaration is pretty significant, and it includes a commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and to address Iran’s destabilizing activities, particularly threats to Israel,” the official said.

Biden is on his first trip to the Middle East since he was elected in early 2021. He will attend a joint news conference along with Lapid.

Biden will meet Palestinian leaders on Friday in the occupied West Bank and then hold talks in Jeddah with leaders of Saudi Arabia, other Gulf allies, and on Saturday with leaders from Saudi Arabia.

Biden will have to fight hard to persuade Iran that the Iran nuclear deal he signed with Donald Trump in 2018 is still valid.

Biden is likely to face questions from Israel and from Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about the wisdom of reviving the Iran nuclear deal and what the United States will do to counter Iran’s regional actions, regardless of whether the deal is resurrected.

In an Israeli television interview on Wednesday, Biden said the deal represented the best chance of holding up Iran’s attempts to develop a nuclear bomb.

“The only thing worse than the Iran which exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons and if we can return to the deal, we can hold them tight,” he said. Asked if the United States could use force if needed, he said: “If that was the last resort, yes.”

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

Iran denies that its nuclear program is intended to acquire nuclear weapons.

The US official, asked if the declaration is about buying some time with Israel as Washington pursues negotiations with Iran, 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.”

According to the official, the US will continue its military assistance to Israel through the joint agreement. The agreement will also support the Abraham Accords, which are the agreements between Israel with a few Arab countries that the Trump administration has helped broker.


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