Dan Shapiro to be US liaison to Israel on Iran

The former American ambassador to Israel will help coordinate the two allies’ actions regarding their mutual foe.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former American ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro is set to be Washington’s point man on all Iran-related issues in Israel, Axios reported Monday.

Shapiro, who served as US ambassador to Israel from 2011-2017, was heavily involved in the creation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He is considered an expert voice on the Islamic Republic, and will now be a senior adviser to the State Department’s Special Envoy to Iran, Robert Malley.

“In light of Shapiro’s experience in the region, he will help us think about the regional implications of the negotiations with Iran and will be able to contribute greatly in terms of coordination with Israel. He knows the area. People in the region know him and he brings a perspective that will contribute to our thinking, “said a senior State Department official.

While it is a given that one of his primary tasks will be coordinating between the two countries regarding the nuclear issue, another important focus will be Iran’s malign regional activities. He will liaise on several fronts, from staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to those in the defense establishment, in an effort to enhance coordination on all things Iran.

In a Washington Post op-ed he published soon after the American elections last year, Shapiro said that although he supported the nuclear deal, he understood Israel’s apprehensions and thought that the two allies should have a close dialogue and even draft a joint strategy on the issue. His new position will now allow him do put his words into practice, especially after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Washington last week, when he repeatedly talked with the most senior American administration figures, including President Biden, of a plan he has to contain Iran.

It could only help that the Jewish diplomat knows Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz personally. He is also familiar with Israel’s senior intelligence figures.

A Plan B for Iran may be very necessary, considering Tehran’s current reluctance to talk to Washington on the subject of re-entering the nuclear deal. Biden has also said that if the indirect negotiations do not resume, he is ready to explore “other options.” Jerusalem has always been opposed to the U.S. returning to the accords, and believes that Iran’s recent progress in nuclear development has made it basically irrelevant. Shapiro’s role in coordinating the allies’ thinking and actions may become one of growing importance over the next several months.

Shapiro has actually been living in Israel ever since he left his diplomatic post, working as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. It is expected that he will now divide his time evenly between Washington and Israel, working out of the U.S. embassy when he comes in.