Israel reserves the right to assess the Iranian situation and make the necessary decisions independently, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday after emerging from some five hours of talks with Wendy Sherman, Washington's top Iran negotiator.
"Israel reiterated and made clear its position that an agreement with Iran must include dismantling its ability to progress toward a nuclear weapon," Steinitz said, using code for Israel's long-standing position that the world needed to insist that Iran dismantle all it's uranium enrichment capabilities. This position clashes with that of the world powers currently negotiating with Iran, which is now seemingly willing to allow Iran some enrichment capability.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the same point publicly at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, saying he was concerned Iran believed it could "realize its plan to be a nuclear threshold state, with an enrichment capability that it thinks cannot be touched, and with the ability to develop both nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles, which it is continuing to work on unhindered." "This combination of enrichment, weapons and launch capabilities, means that Iran is, in effect, receiving everything and giving almost nothing," he said. "That is the current situation." Netanyahu said that the long-term agreement now being negotiated between the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) and Iran cannot be allowed to render permanent this current state of affairs.
The long term agreement, he said, must "dismantle the Iranian ability to either produce or launch nuclear weapons, and this has yet to be achieved, and without the insistence of the major powers, it will not be achieved." Sherman, the US Under Secretary of State who led Washington’s delegation to the recent talks in Vienna, briefed Steinitz and National Security Council head Yossi Cohen and staff members from various other government and intelligence agencies on the Vienna talks.
Steinitz said the dialogue with Sherman dealt in "great detail" with diplomatic, intelligence and technical aspects of the Iranian nuclear program, and was part of Israel's ongoing strategic dialogue with the US.
Sherman has made it a practice of coming to Jerusalem after every round of talks with the Iranians to immediately brief Israel. She made clear Saturday night, however, that she does not agree with Israel's position that Iran must not be allowed any uranium enrichment capability, saying Iran might be allowed a "limited" nuclear program "that addresses practical needs." "I would like there to be zero enrichment," she said. "I would like there to be no facilities, I would like there not to be an indigenous program. I would like many things in life. But that does not mean I will get them." Sherman will also be briefing officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week, states which are as concerned as Israel at the prospect of Iran gaining nuclear capabilities.
Over the last two weeks Netanyahu has once again stepped up the rhetoric against Iran's nuclear program, saying that the country has not altered any of its aggressive policies. This is expected to be the item on the top of his agenda when he is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington next Monday.
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