US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday that Washington will “turn to other options” if diplomacy fails with Iran.
Speaking from the White House after their first face-to-face meeting, the two leaders struck a friendly tone and highlighted their nation's common threats.
Regarding Iran, Mr Biden reiterated the US commitment to preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and said other options were being considered if diplomatic talks in Vienna were to break down.
“We’re putting diplomacy first and we’ll see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options,” Mr Biden said.
US officials said this month that Washington is looking at reinstating sanctions on Iran if no progress is achieved during the nuclear talks in Vienna.
The US and world powers have held six round of talks with Iran this year in Vienna in an attempt to reinforce the nuclear deal signed in 2015. Those talks have hit a snag following Iranian elections in June that saw the victory of conservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
The president reassured Mr Bennett the flow of US security aid to Israel would continue.
“I fully, fully, fully support replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome system,” he said.
Mr Bennett thanked Mr Biden for “fortifying Israel’s strategic [military] advantage in the region” and added that his country is “in the toughest neighbourhood in the world".
The Israeli prime minister called Iran the “world’s number one exporter of terror, instability and human rights violations".
“As we sit here right now, the Iranians are spinning their centrifuges,” he said, making a vow to stop it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report this month that Iran had accelerated its enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, a move raising tensions with the west as both sides seek to resume talks on reviving Tehran's nuclear deal.
The one-on-one meeting between Mr Bennett and Mr Biden lasted 50 minutes, double the time allocated for it on the schedule, and was followed by a larger meeting attended by Israeli officials including National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Israel’s ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, as well as US officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director for the Middle East Brett McGurk.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin met separately with Mr Bennett on Wednesday at the Pentagon.
“Iran must be held accountable for acts of aggression in the Middle East and in international waters,” Mr Austin said.
Mr Biden was the first world leader to call Mr Bennett after he took office. This trip to Washington is the prime minister’s first official foreign visit.
On Saturday, a top Iranian security official accused Mr Biden of illegally threatening Iran following his remarks on using "other options" if nuclear diplomacy fails.
"The emphasis on using 'other options' against (Iran) amounts to threatening another country illegally and establishes Iran's right to reciprocate ... against 'available options'," Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said on Twitter.
Separately, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Al Khamenei warned Mr Raisi's economic planners to assume that US sanctions would remain in place, calling Mr Biden a "predatory wolf".
Iran is also acting in defiance of some of the strongest supporters of a return to the nuclear deal, in Europe, which accused Iran on 19 August of continuing to illegally enrich uranium to levels where Tehran could be in reach of creating a nuclear weapon.
The EU issued a statement expressing "grave concern" over Iran taking "key steps in the development of a nuclear weapon and Iran has no credible civilian need for either measure," the bloc said.
"Our concerns are deepened by the fact that Iran has significantly limited IAEA access," the statement added.