CIA Director in Israel as Biden Administration Mulls Interim Iran Deal 

The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, is in Israel for talks that officials say will focus primarily on Iran. His arrival Tuesday comes amid rapidly rising tensions in the region and a drone strike on an Israeli-managed oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which Western governments blame on Tehran.Last week, there was also an escalation in cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed radical Lebanese group, and Israel. Hezbollah fired cross-border rockets, which landed near Israeli military positions, drawing retaliatory Israeli strikes into southern Lebanon.Both sides appeared careful to avoid casualties, but on Saturday, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah warned he could order an escalation.Israeli forces fire artillery on the border with Lebanon after a barrage of rockets were fired from Lebanon, Aug. 6, 2021. The militant Hezbollah group said it fired rockets near Israeli positions close to the Lebanese border.Iran has denied it was behind the drone strike last month on the HV Mercer Street in which two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. But Western officials and analysts say it fits a pattern of increased combative behavior by Iran, especially over the past six months.During his three-day visit, Burns is expected to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, his Israeli counterpart, David Barnea, head of the Mossad intelligence agency, and other top defense officials. The key topics will be Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran’s regional actions and the likely foreign policy direction of Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a former hardline Islamic judge who is under U.S. sanctions over alleged atrocities he oversaw during his career in the Iranian judiciary.“The arrival of a hardline president in Iran has prompted dire predictions about the direction of Iran’s domestic and foreign policies,” noted the In this image provided by Maxar Technologies, the oil tanker Mercer Street is seen off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Aug. 4, 2021. The United States, United Kingdom and Israel blame Iran for an attack on the Mercer Street off Oman.Previously, shipping attacks in the Gulf have more often than not involved limpet mines, which can be placed on the hull of a target vessel. Israeli defense officials see the switch in tactics as a major escalation in a shadow war between Iran and Israel.And they have called for strong retaliatory action against Iran for the drone attack on the MV Mercer Street. Gantz told the Knesset, or parliament, that there are “hundreds of Iranian UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and other countries.” He added, “We will act to remove any such threat.”US, G-7 Say Evidence in Oil Tanker Attack Points to IranUS military investigators say remnants of drone used in fatal strike are identical to components in other Iranian-made attack vehicles The call for a strong response has been echoed in Britain by the country’s top military commander, General Nick Carter, who said in a BBC interview that Western powers need to retaliate, otherwise Tehran will feel emboldened. “We have got to restore deterrence because it is behavior like that which leads to escalation, and that could very easily lead to miscalculation and that would be very disastrous for all the peoples of the Gulf and the international community,” he said.The Biden administration has also condemned Iranian actions in the Gulf with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying after the drone strike on the MV Mercer Street that there was “no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behavior.”The administration has been more restrained in language than Israel and Washington appears to be prioritizing getting Iran back to the negotiating table. But according to Bloomberg, the administration may have accepted that the chances of a return to the 2015 deal are now fading.
 

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