Biden Meets Israel’s Leaders With Focus on Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

JERUSALEM — President Biden is meeting with senior Israeli officials Thursday to discuss regional security amid efforts to contain an increasingly assertive Iran as his first presidential trip to the Middle East begins.

Iran has emerged as a central theme of Mr Biden’s four-day trip, which also includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Arab leaders. Israel and Arab countries are working more closely to counter Tehran. In turn, the US has sought to encourage a deepening of regional alliances that could help contain Iran and allow Washington to focus on other regions, particularly China.

Concerns about Iran have risen as it has expanded its nuclear work, including the production of uranium enriched into near-weapons-grade material, and made progress on its missile and drone programs.

After meeting with Israel’s acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday, Mr Biden said the two discussed the importance of Israel’s integration into the region. Mr Lapid said he was trying to “build even more moderate coalitions in the Middle East” and said he wanted to make sure there was no nuclear Iran.

Mr. Biden added, “There will be no nuclear Iran.”

Messrs. Biden and Lapid are expected to release a joint statement on Thursday underscoring the U.S.-Israel alliance and promising to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, Biden administration officials said.

Israel’s experimental air defense system, known as Iron Beam, uses laser technology to fend off drones and missiles, but military analysts say the device needs US support to improve its performance. WSJ explains how it works. Photo illustration: Adam Adada

In an interview with Israeli media this week, Mr Biden said he would use force as a last resort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He also reiterated that he remains committed to reviving the 2015 deal that attempted to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, a pact Israeli officials have repeatedly criticized.

Ahead of the trip, the US publicly highlighted information suggesting that Iran is preparing to supply Russia with drones for the Ukraine battlefield and to train its armed forces to use them. Officials said they hoped the development would incite countries in the region against Iran amid growing concerns over Tehran’s advanced drone program, which the US and its partners and allies in the region have blamed for some of the attacks in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East have blamed East.

Biden administration officials said the US is taking steps to work with Israel to co-develop the Iron Beam, an experimental laser system intended as a shield against Iran-backed attacks. US officials have been involved in talks to form a regional air defense partnership with Israel and other Arab nations to protect the countries from threats from Iran. Those talks have slowed due to concerns from some Arab nations involved in discussions on the partnership, people familiar with the matter said.


What should President Biden prioritize on his Middle East trip? Join the conversation below.

Mr Biden will also meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition. In addition to Iran, topics of discussion with the Israeli leadership include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Ukraine.

The US president plans to underscore in his meetings with Israeli officials that he supports a two-state solution to the conflict, but Biden administration officials said he has no plans to make any fresh peace proposals during the trip. Mr Biden said on Wednesday that he did not expect any progress on a Palestinian state “in the near future”.

Mr Biden was scheduled to attend a virtual summit with leaders of Israel, India and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday focused on food security and clean energy development. At the meeting of the four countries, which the US dubbed “I2U2,” the United Arab Emirates will pledge $2 billion to fund good parks across India, the White House said.

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