US officials have warned their Israeli counterparts that the repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities may be tactically satisfying, but they are ultimately counterproductive, The New York Times reported on Sunday, citing several officials familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions.
According to the report, Israeli officials have said they have no intention of letting up the attacks, waving away warnings that they may only be encouraging a sped-up rebuilding of Iran’s nuclear program, one of many areas in which the United States and Israel disagree on the benefits of using diplomacy rather than force.
The report also said that intelligence officials and international inspectors say the Iranians have quickly gotten the attacked facilities back online, often installing newer machines that can enrich uranium at a far more rapid pace.
When a plant that made key centrifuge parts suffered what looked like a crippling explosion in late spring, destroying much of the parts inventory and the cameras and sensors installed by international inspectors, production resumed by late summer, according to The New York Times.
The report comes ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers on November 29.
The New York Times report said that inside the White House, there has been a scramble in recent days to explore whether some kind of interim deal might be possible to freeze Iran’s production of more enriched uranium and its conversion of that fuel to metallic form.
In return, the United States might ease a limited number of sanctions. While that would not solve the problem, it might buy time for negotiations, while holding off Israeli threats to bomb Iranian facilities.
Ahead of the resumption of talks, Iran has demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran as part of the nuclear talks and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again.
US officials have insisted that while Washington prefers the path of diplomacy to resolve the standoff with Iran, there are other options on the table.
On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US will consider all options if diplomacy fails.
"The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. And we remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue. But if Iran isn't willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all the options necessary to keep the United States secure," Austin said in a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue 2021 taking place in Manama, Bahrain.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday that he supports a “broader, stronger” deal with Iran.
“I support an agreement that will be broader, stronger and longer – taking Iran back, dismantling its current capabilities and placing effective inspections on its sites and on its weapons production,” Gantz said at the Haaretz-UCLA conference.