With a draft agreement for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal reportedly almost completed, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for an alternative that will deter Tehran from reaching nuclear weapons capabilities, Axios reports.
The last remaining issue to be worked out, according to Axios, is Iran's demand that the Biden administration remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list.
Iran's current uranium enrichment pace would reportedly allow it to reach nuclear weapons capabilities within weeks.
Citing Israeli officials, Axios reports Bennett told Blinken that Iran can be deterred if it knows that Western countries would impose economic sanctions like the kind placed on Russia over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Bennett also told Blinken that the nuclear deal is "a Band-Aid" solution that will only last for a few years, while giving Iran billions of dollars that could be used to fund terrorism, Israeli officials said.
"It is us here in the region that will have to deal with that afterward," Bennett told Blinken, according to a senior Israeli official.
Israel and its regional Arab allies are opposed to a U.S. return to the nuclear deal.
The deal was at the center of a meeting between Blinken and Bennett on Sunday, Israeli and U.S. officials said, with the deal also being mentioned during the Negev Desert summit the next day.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's Egyptian, Moroccan, Emirati and Bahraini counterparts expressed concerns about the deal and its consequences for the region, Israeli officials told Axios, emphasizing that they are against removing the IRGC from the FTO list.
"Israel and the United States will continue to work together to prevent a nuclear Iran," Lapid told ABC News. "At the same time, Israel will do anything we believe is needed to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Anything."
EU diplomat Enrique Mora met Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Tehran on Sunday in a bid to work out a compromise regarding the IRGC demand.
From Tehran, Mora then flew to Washington, D.C. for discussions with U.S. Iran envoy Rob Malley.
While attending a conference in Qatar on Sunday, Malley reportedly said he doesn't believe a nuclear deal with Iran is imminent.
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