Israel uses General Mark Milley to deliver messages to the Biden government about Iran: report

Israeli officials are trying to use Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: Congress plans session to overturn potential Trump veto | Miller takes unannounced trip to Afghanistan Acting Pentagon chief takes unannounced trip to Afghanistan amid withdrawal. Internal panel launches investigation into cyber attack | Army to launch face masks for soldiers in 2021 MORE, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to convey sensitive messages to the next Biden government related to Iran and other regional developments.

An Israeli official told Axios that Jerusalem wanted to express concern about negotiations with Iran and urge Biden’s advisers to use the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration as a “lever” to achieve a better nuclear deal with Tehran.

The official said the Israelis saw Milley as someone who “will still be present when Biden takes office and will play an important role in any policy review that occurs”.

The main US military chief was in Israel last week, at the end of a turbulent trip to the Middle East, where he met in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.

In Israel, he met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israel’s chief military commander, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi.

President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenNewsom calls on Shirley Weber to serve as California’s secretary of state, the White House wishes Birx well after she announces her retirement. Karl Rove cries Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell over election claims MORE he said he would bring the U.S. back to the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump closed in 2018, as long as Iran respects the pact.

Biden also said he is looking to negotiate a long-term and more comprehensive deal to address issues such as Iran’s conventional weapons program and its funding of proxy-fighting forces across the Middle East.

Israeli officials also wish to preserve the momentum of normalization agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim majority countries negotiated by the Trump administration and to distinguish between concerns about human rights abuses in those countries and efforts to strengthen alliances in the Middle East.

“We think it is important for the next government to maintain the momentum of the normalization process … So we hope that the new government will look at the complexities and not burn the bridges with these countries,” an Israeli official told Axios.

The next Biden government is reportedly postponing substantive communications with foreign countries before taking office, in an effort to avoid any criticism of being influenced by foreign governments before taking office.

Still, Biden spoke to Netanyahu last month. In the call, the Israeli prime minister congratulated the president-elect for the victory. Biden, for his part, reiterated his support for Israel’s security and that he hopes to work closely to “face the many challenges that our countries face”.

Tensions between Israel, the US and Iran are high because of the recent assassination of a leading Iranian nuclear scientist, which Tehran attributed to Israel, and the one-year anniversary of the US death of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in an attack of drones.

There is also uncertainty in Israel, as the country heads for the national elections in March, the country’s fourth elections in two years.

The Trump administration, in its final weeks, continued its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against human rights abuses, while targeting Iranian industries such as oil, shipping and banking.