- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2021

The apparent cyberattack that temporarily shut down power at Iran‘s top uranium enrichment facility over the weekend will not derail the Biden administration’s hopes to restart talks with Tehran on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday.

Mr. Austin told reporters traveling with him during his two-day visit to Israel that he was aware of the reports of the attack on the Natanz site but had no further information about it. But he added the ongoing efforts to engage Iran in diplomacy through the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would continue. Mr. Biden is trying to rejoin the multilateral deal that President Trump repudiated in 2018.

“I’m very, obviously, supportive of the president’s efforts to negotiate a way ahead there,” Mr. Austin said. “My expectation is that we’ll continue to focus on doing what the president’s trying to achieve there.”

He is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for continuing on his trip that will include stops in Europe to confer with NATO allies. Israeli leaders have long condemned the Obama administration’s 2015 deal, saying it did not do enough to stop its archrival Iran from eventually obtaining a nuclear bomb.

While Iran has accused Israel of masterminding the cyberattack, Mr. Austin said he doubted he and Mr. Netanyahu would focus on the incident in their discussions.

“I expect to engage him in key areas of defense cooperation, just as I did with [Defense Minister Benny) Gantz. And so I think that’ll be the focus of our conversation,” Mr. Austin said.

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