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Report: CIA head in secret Israel visit to discuss Iran nuclear talks

According to Haaretz, John Brennan, Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secretly visited Israel last week and met with the country’s political and intelligence leadership to discuss the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany).

Iran and the P5+1 agreed a framework to a comprehensive nuclear deal in April, paving the way for negotiations to begin towards a long-term accord, which must be agreed by the end of this month. However, both sides have since indicated differences over fundamental issues such as Iran’s use of advanced centrifuges, the pace of sanctions relief and provision for international inspections. Israeli leaders have repeatedly expressed concern that the nascent deal will further empower Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions and have implored American officials to re-negotiate the terms under discussion.

According to senior Israeli officials cited by Haaretz, despite differences between US and Israeli leadership over the nuclear talks, Brennan was hosted last week by Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi and National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen. Last week, Brennan told CBS “although there’s been great debate about the Iranian nuclear negotiations that are ongoing,” that the US “intelligence community entities are working very close with their Israeli … counterparts.”

Meanwhile, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey landed in Israel yesterday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. They will discuss common security challenges and future cooperation, but talks are expected to focus on efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear development.

Yesterday, US Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken sought to reassure a conference of the American Jewish Congress over the proposed nuclear deal. He said, “The United States and Israel share an absolute conviction that Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.”