Biden’s Adviser Discussed Possible Outreach to Iran on Nuclear Program With Oman According to Sources

Brett McGurk, President Biden’s senior Middle East adviser, took a low-profile trip to Oman earlier this month for talks with Omani officials on possible diplomatic outreach to Iran regarding its nuclear program, according to five U.S., Israeli and European officials.

The Biden administration has said it is extremely concerned about the advances in Iran’s nuclear program and the risk of it leading to a regional military escalation. It was reported in April that the Biden administration discussed with its European and Israeli partners a possible proposal for an interim agreement with Iran that would include some sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran freezing parts of its nuclear program.

McGurk travelled to Muscat on May 8 after a trip to Saudi Arabia with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and a visit to Israel to brief Prime Minister Netanyahu about the U.S. talks in Riyadh, four Israeli and U.S. officials said. The Muscat visit wasn’t made public by either the U.S. or Oman. The officials said the main issue that was discussed was a new diplomatic push over Iran’s nuclear program with Oman mediation.

“The Omanis are holding proximity talks between the U.S. and Iran,” a senior Israeli official told Axios using diplomatic jargon for negotiations done through an agreed upon third party without a face-to-face meeting. Three senior Israeli officials claimed the White House is exploring through the Oman government whether the Iranians are open to taking steps that would put some limits on their nuclear program and de-escalate the regional situation and what they would want in return.

  • “The Americans want a time out,” one of the senior Israeli officials told sources.
  • A White House National Security Council spokesperson pushed back on the Israeli officials’ claims. “There is no U.S. discussion of an interim deal and no discussion of sanctions relief, or closing safeguards cases,” the spokesperson said.
  • A senior European diplomat said that the “U.S. is working with the Omanis on the Iranian issue.”
  • The White House NSC spokesperson said they won’t comment on regional diplomacy “of which Iran is one aspect.”

The Israeli government is concerned about a possible push by the Biden administration for a “freeze for freeze” interim agreement with Iran, three Israeli officials told sources. Israeli Minister for strategic affairs Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are expected to discuss these concerns during their visit to the White House on Thursday, as previously reported.

The Omani and Iranian foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.

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