President Joe Biden's top national security adviser will travel to Israel and the West Bank to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett face to face as talks with Iran over a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement approach collapse.
The discussions will center on "where we see the state of Iran's nuclear program, and some of the timelines, and some of this is an art more than a science," a senior administration official said, a nod to possible red lines for Israel over Iran's uranium enrichment program.
The United States and Israel are aligned on the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the official added. "We want to see a return to compliance with the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] in which there's no question that the level of enriched uranium is only solely for civilian usage."
The brass-tacks discussion is set to follow months of negotiations in Vienna between the U.S., Iran, and other parties to the deal, which includes European allies, China, and Russia. Progress has stalled in recent months.
"It's actually a pretty simple formula," the official added. "They return to nuclear compliance [and] we will return to compliance with the JCPOA."
Washington has threatened stepped-up sanctions on Iran and alluded to "other options" if the regime fails to return to the terms of the deal, which the U.S. exited under the Trump administration. Israel has also warned of possible military action.
Still, the official said, there are "no new initiatives to be announced on the trip."
Last month, Biden's national security coordinator for the Middle East described as "fuzzy" the threshold for determining at what point military intervention would be appropriate.
"When it came to military force for behavior change, that is a pretty fuzzy objective for a military force," said Brett McGurk, White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. "When it comes to military force to prevent a country from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that is a very achievable objective."
The official on Monday laid blame at the feet of the Trump administration for the current impasse and for Iran's rapid nuclear enrichment progress.
"Something happened in 2019. The former administration pulled out of the JCPOA, they engaged in a maximum pressure campaign, and I think anyone who has dealt with the Iranians for some time would have predicted that Iran will react. And they did react," the official said. "And one of the ways they reacted was attacking Saudi Arabia and others in the Gulf, direct state-to-state attacks."
Negotiations in Vienna over a return to the deal have stalled as Iran moves away from positions put forth by a prior negotiating team. The shift has frustrated European allies, as well as China and Russia, as the group mediates talks with the U.S.
"This point about the rapidly accelerating Iranian nuclear program being a threat to international peace and security is a common position of the United States, of the U.K., Germany, and France, and Russia and China," the official said. "We don't have much time, and that's not just coming from the United States of America and Israel."
National security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with Bennett and senior Israeli government officials. He will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, likely the most high-profile meeting between the two delegations since Biden took office.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
The official noted engagements between senior officials from the U.S. and Israeli governments, including a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid and Vice President Kamala Harris.