CIA director to meet with senior Israeli, Palestinian officials: Report

CIA director William Burns (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 9, 2021

Trip will concentrate on Iran’s nuclear program and regional activity, Israeli officials tell Axios.

CIA director William Burns is set to meet with top-level Israeli and Palestinian officials and leaders this week during a trip to the Middle East, Axios has reported.

Burns will visit Israel on Tuesday to engage in talks that will likely centre on Iran, the news site reported, citing Israeli officials.

There, he will meet with David Barnea, the director of the MOSSAD intelligence agency, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as other senior defence and intelligence personnel.

He is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority officials during a stop in Ramallah, including intelligence chief Majed Faraj and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli officials told Axios that the conversations will concentrate on Iran’s nuclear program and regional activity. The officials also said Israel hopes to hear more about US policy toward the new Iranian government and the potential to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

The trip comes amid heightened tensions after Israel, the US, and several European countries blamed Iran for an attack on an Israeli-owned shipping vessel last week that killed two of its international crew members.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations and the European Union issued a joint statement on Friday that denounced Iran for carrying out a “deliberate and targeted attack” on the ship.

Israel has said it provided its allies “hard evidence” that Iran was behind the attack, while Blinken initially warned of a “collective response”.

Then, on Monday, Blinken reiterated his pledge to punish Iran, saying that the world cannot allow “impunity”.

Returning to Iran nuclear deal

Meanwhile, the ongoing negotiations on the resumption of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are currently at an impasse after six rounds of unsuccessful talks.

In April, the US and Iran informally began indirect talks on re-entering the deal, brokered by five other signatories to the agreement – Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK.

Early hopes that the talks would lead to a quick revival faded after the US refused Iranian demands to lift all US sanctions and promise never to pull out of the agreement again.

Talks were halted in June before the outcome of the Iranian presidential election. Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative hardliner backed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, won the race that saw a historic level of abstention amongst Iranian voters and the barring of reformist candidates.

Since then, Washington has urged Iran to return to the negotiations, warning that the window for diplomacy would not stay open forever.

Raisi has meanwhile promised to take steps to lift “tyrannical” sanctions imposed by the US after it left the nuclear deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump.