Gantz: Iran in Vienna with weak cards to play

The defense minister said that the US and the world powers “can stop Iran’s nuclear progress and in general” with its regional terror.

 Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 17, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 17, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC) that Iran’s negotiating posture at the nuclear talks in Vienna is weak and that the world powers can halt both its nuclear and regional terror activities if they draw a clear line in the sand.

“The internal situation in Iran leaves lots of opportunities for the world. It is not a real power. It’s citizens are suffering... the heads of Iran know their [weak] situation,” he said.

Gantz continued, “Iran arrived at the talks in Vienna without substantial cards to play. They want to play for time” to convince the West to agree to a deal with fewer nuclear limits and with less pressure from sanctions on their economy.

The defense minister said that the US and the world powers “can stop Iran’s nuclear progress and in general” with its regional terror.

In addition, he referenced his recent talks in Washington with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken as well as an expected meeting this week in Israel with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan – calling them all “strong friends of Israel.”

 US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an enhanced honor cordon arrival ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, US, December 9, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO) US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomes Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an enhanced honor cordon arrival ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, US, December 9, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO)

Regarding the dialogue with the US over Iran, he said, “Israel will always act responsibly, always in dialogue with its allies” which help guarantee long-term alliances and security.

“It is important to emphasize: Israel has no better friend than the US... this always needs to be before us and impact our calculations,” while adding that “we need to worry about [security for] ourselves for ourselves, but our connection with the US is the highest level strategic issue.”

He said that, “We are deepening international cooperation, and I am certain that soon – both overt and covert actions will be expanded, by a variety of means.

At the same time, for the past year-and-a-half, we have been engaged in force buildup, procuring new means that will ensure Israel’s security superiority in the region in the face of all threats,” said the defense minister.

Two rounds of nuclear talks have taken place in recent weeks between Iran and the world powers following a half-year hiatus after the April-June rounds of talks.

Regarding the situation in Judea and Samaria, Gantz said: “In recent weeks, in response to an increased number of alerts, we have carried out extensive counterterrorism operations, which have curtailed both [terror] capabilities and intentions.”

Moreover, he stated that “these operations will continue. We will increase our presence on the ground and we will charge a price from those who spread terror and incitement. We will act in the face of any attempt by Hamas to gain strength or to harm Israeli citizens – anywhere, anytime.”

Earlier, FADC chairman Ram Ben Barak had welcomed Gantz, saying, “we are in one of the most challenging times... Iran has been advancing too much in the last three to four years” toward a nuclear weapon, and expressing interest in the classified update he would give.

Ben Barak also raised concerns about Hezbollah, Hamas and noted positive possibilities from the Abraham Accords.Following his public statement, Gantz was expected to give a more in-depth closed doors update to the committee.