WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Israel said Wednesday they are exploring a "Plan B" for dealing with Iran if the Islamic Republic does not return in good faith to negotiations to salvage the languishing landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said discussions between their two countries have begun on "other options" should Iran reject an offer to come back into compliance with the agreement if the U.S. rejoins it. They did not elaborate on what those options might be, but there are a wide range of non-diplomatic options that could be considered, ranging from stepped up sanctions to covert or military actions.
The remarks were a rare acknowledgment by the U.S. that it is looking at what to do in the event diplomacy with Iran fails. Israel has never been a party to the nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, and its former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.
Blinken and Lapid made the remarks at a joint news conference at the State Department with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates at which all three agreed to try to expand on the so-called "Abraham Accords," the Trump-era agreements that normalized relations between Israel and the UAE and other Arab states.
Their comments came as Iran has hinted it's ready to return to indirect negotiations with the U.S. in Vienna but has not committed to a date. Iran has also continued to blow through limits on it nuclear activities that had been constrained by the deal.
Blinken reiterated that the window for Iran to return to the agreement is closing but again declined to give a date at which it would be too late. "Time is running short," he said. "We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of it."
"We will look at every option to to deal with the challenge posed by Iran," Blinken said. "And we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that. But, it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point."
Lapid was more blunt, raising anew Israel's warnings that it will act, with military force if necessary, to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"There are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil," he said. "If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won't allow it. If the Iranians don't believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will race to the bomb. Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment in any way. That is not only our right, it is also our responsibility."