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Iran, arms supplies on the agenda as US defence chief lands in Israel

Lloyd Austin is the first senior Biden administration official to visit Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 April, 2021

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The US defence chief's visit comes amid consternation in Tel Aviv over the Biden administration's unfolding Iran policy.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel on Sunday, becoming the first senior Biden administration official to visit the Jewish state.

Austin is set to meet Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz on his two-day visit. Officials have said the talks will cover US arms supplies to Israel, according to Reuters.

The US defence chief's visit comes amid concerns in Israel over the Biden administration's developing stance on Iran, which is expected to break from the Trump administration's 'maximum pressure' campaign favoured by Tel Aviv.

Washington and Tehran have yet to engage in direct talks about reviving the 2015 nuclear accord which placed curbs on Iran's nuclear programme, but have mutually expressed openness to returning to the negotiating table.

Israel has long opposed the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), arguing that it would still allow Iran to attain nuclear arms. Iran claims its nuclear programme is for civilian and not military purposes.

Amid speculation about the Biden administration's next steps in reviving the JCPOA, Washington has sought to Israel of its committment to their long-standing alliance.

In a statement last week, the Pentagon said Austin, Netanyahu and Gantz will "continue close consultations on shared priorities, and reaffirm the enduring US commitment to the US-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge".

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