Ahead of a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin "Benny" Gantz on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said the U.S. is “completely committed” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
"We share Israel's deep concerns about the Iranian government's destabilizing actions, including its support for terrorism and its missile program, and its alarming nuclear advances," Austin said in advance of the meeting. "We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — this is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world."
Negotiations between European nations and Iran on JCPOA Resume
Talks on reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal also resumed in Austria’s capital Vienna on Thursday. Senior diplomats from the UK, France, and Germany on Friday reportedly expressed "disappointment and concern" at the latest proposals from Iran.
"It was emphasised that the proposals of Iran on the removal of illegal and oppressive sanctions and the nuclear issue are on the table," Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani told Iranian media on Friday in Vienna.
U.S. orders preparation for 'other options' if Iran nuclear talks fail
While Austin said diplomacy is the first tool that should be used to address threats posed by Iran, he said it is not the only tool the U.S. has at its disposal.
"The president has made clear that if the policy fails, we are prepared to turn to other options," Austin said. "The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with all of our partners throughout the region, including Israel, first and foremost, to ensure that we're working together to address Iranian threats. We will defend ourselves, we will defend our friends, and we will defend our interests."
Iran's nuclear program, Gantz said, is its means to achieving its goals both regionally and globally, and he counts on the United States to ensure it doesn't advance.
"I am totally confident in the commitment of the administration of the United States as a global power to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons," he said. "The international community, with the United States' leadership, has an opportunity to act against Iran's hegemonic aspirations, restore stability, and prevent the oppression of nations across the region."