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U.S. and Israel have a policy of ‘no surprises,’ says Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan

The United States and Israel disagree about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran but have an understanding to ensure there are “no surprises” between the two governments, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News.

In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Sullivan indirectly addressed allegations that Israel was behind a recent cyberattack on an underground Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz.

Asked if he would prefer that Iran’s nuclear sites not come under attack during negotiations, Sullivan said, “We certainly believe that there are certain kinds of activities that are unhelpful to diplomacy.” But he did not elaborate on the “activities” he was referring to or Israel’s possible role.

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Sullivan added, “At the same time, we believe, profoundly and passionately, in making sure that we and Israel have a policy of no surprises, that we are communicating with one another on a going forward basis, so that we have a better understanding … on what the other side intends to do with respect to a whole range of security issues in the region.”

Sullivan acknowledged that the Biden administration and the Israeli government disagreed about the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

“Israel has a point of view on the Iran nuclear deal. The current government in Israel has communicated that view to us, they have deep concerns about it, and we’ve had intensive dialogue,” he said.

Sullivan said there had been “some progress” in the talks in Vienna between Iran and world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 accord. The United States is taking part indirectly, passing messages through European governments.

“There is still a fair distance to travel, and that is chiefly on the question of the type of sanctions relief that will be offered from our side, and the type of nuclear restraints that will be imposed on their side,” he said.

Despite strong opposition to the deal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some former senior Israeli intelligence officials and military officers have spoken out in favor of President Joe Biden’s approach.

Tamir Pardo, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, signed a letter with other former Israeli security and military officials in February endorsing the Biden administration’s plan to return to the nuclear deal if Iran came back into compliance with restrictions on its nuclear activities.

Sullivan spoke to NBC News before meeting his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, in Washington on Tuesday.

According to a White House statement, the two “discussed their serious concerns about advancements in Iran’s nuclear program in recent years.”

In the meeting, officials updated Israel on the nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and world powers, and “emphasized strong U.S. interest in consulting closely with Israel on the nuclear issue going forward.”

The White House said “the United States and Israel agreed on the significant threat posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region, and U.S. officials underscored President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”