WASHINGTON – Officials from the administration of US President Barack Obama
stressed their intention to maintain a tough stance during talks with Iran,
according to Jewish leaders who met with top White House staff on
Ahead of negotiations in Baghdad over the Iranian nuclear
program, the officials said that the US has no plan to reduce sanctions during
the talks, and that it was their firm expectation that the EU would still be
imposing an oil embargo on Iran at the beginning of July with no exemptions for
British shipping insurance, participants said.
Some 70 members of the
Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations met with US Vice
President Joe Biden, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, Deputy
Secretary of State Thomas Nides and other administration officials in a series
of closed door meetings.
Participants, who spoke on condition of
anonymity about the off-the-record briefings, said the officials emphasized that
the US was entering the nuclear talks clear-eyed about Iranian intentions and
with no plan to reduce pressure in the near term, reiterating that all options
remain on the table.
The atmosphere was described as business-like and
frank, though several of those in attendance noted that some in the room
disagreed with the positions staked out by the administration.
meeting at the White House, which usually happens once each year, comes as the
Obama administration gears up for November’s presidential race. During his
meeting with the conference, Biden referenced negative emails circulating to
challenge the administration’s support of Israel and went into a lengthy
rebuttal against the charges. He also noted that he held a lengthy meeting last
week with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with whom he has a close
The briefings also come soon after the formation of a
national unity government in Israel, which White House officials welcomed as a
positive development, according to several participants. The officials were
pleased with the change because it offers stability and more opportunities for
progress on the peace process by having more elements in the government who
support moving it forward. Optimism was also expressed on the Palestinian-
Israeli front given recent contact between the two sides.
officials greeted with some skepticism efforts to form a Fatah-Hamas unity
government, pointing out that several previous attempts led nowhere. But they
repeated the established US requirements that Hamas renounce violence, respect
previous agreements and recognize Israel to be eligible for American
Iran, however, was the main topic of discussion, with several
different American officials making the point that the US would continue to
tighten the sanctions vice on Iran even as talks go on.
focused on the Iranian issue much more than in previous years when the peace
process and US-Israeli relations played a bigger role, according to those