Brett McGurk, the top Middle East official on the National Security Council, recently made an unannounced trip to Oman to discuss potential diplomatic outreach with Iran over its nuclear program, Axios reported Tuesday.
Tensions have been soaring between the US and Iran since indirect negotiations to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, broke down last year. The Biden administration has taken a very hardline approach to Iran and has continued to increase sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The Axios report cited unnamed US, Israeli, and European officials who said McGurk traveled to Muscat on May 8, and the main topic of conversation was an idea for a new diplomatic push over Iran’s nuclear program with Omani mediation. “The Omanis are holding proximity talks between the US and Iran,” one Israeli official said.
Iran is currently enriching some uranium at 60%, which is the highest level it has ever achieved, a step that came in response to an Israeli covert attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in 2021. Despite claims from Israeli officials, there’s no sign Tehran is working toward a nuclear bomb as 90% enrichment is needed for weapons-grade.
But Israel is still constantly threatening to attack Iran over its nuclear program. Israeli officials claimed to Axios that the US is looking to see if Iran is willing to freeze some of its nuclear activity and wants to know what they would want in return. However, a National Security Council spokesperson denied the claim.
“There is no US discussion of an interim deal and no discussion of sanctions relief, or closing safeguards cases.” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the McGurk trip to Oman. Both the US and Oman did not make the visit public.