The US and EU are talking in Brussels this week about the possibility of
strengthening sanctions against Iran, a senior US official told Israeli
“There are new discussions this week in Europe about
additional sanctions [against Tehran],” the official said.
He added that
he did not want to be specific, but “there is quite a list of additional
measures that can be taken.”
“We are prepared to do more. We believe that
a number of our allies are prepared to do more,” said the
“Deeper enforcement and implementation of previous sanctions
will have an effect.”
He spoke with Israeli reporters after US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton’s one-day visit to Israel
on Monday. Her visit followed
that of her deputy William Burns and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due in Israel next week.
are part of continuous discussions between the two countries,” the official
Iran was one of the key topics in meetings between Israeli and US
officials. It also dominated the conversation between Israeli reporters and the
senior US official.
Israel and the US agree that Iran’s nuclear program
must be stopped and that sanctions is the preferred strategy to use against
Tehran. But they disagree on the length of time to rely on that strategy. Israel
is worried that the window for a military strike will be lost if action is not
taken soon, while the US believes there is still more time for sanctions to
On Wednesday, however, the US official dismissed this difference.
He reiterated a statement Clinton made Monday, in which she said Israel and the
US are on the same page when it comes to Iran.
One reporter asked wryly,
“But are they on the same paragraph?” Another added, “Is it a page in the same
book?” The official stressed that the two countries consulted heavily with each
other on Iran, particularly on the issue of sanctions.
“There is no step
with respect to the P5 + 1 talks that has not been fully coordinated with
Israel,” said the official.
The US, China, Russia, France, Britain and
Germany have held three rounds of P5+1 talks with Iran in the last months, which
to date have not yielded results.On Monday in Jerusalem Clinton said, “The
proposals we have seen from Iran thus far within the P-5+1 negotiations are
Despite three rounds of talks, it appears that Iran has yet
to make a strategic decision to address the international community’s concerns
and fulfill their obligations under the IAEA [International Atomic Energy
Agency] and the UN Security Council.”
On Wednesday, the US official told
reporters, “There is still time for diplomacy to work if Iran will respond to
pressure.” He noted that the sanctions were already heavily impacting Iran, and
the full brunt of the latest round of private sanctions taken by the US and
Europe had yet to be fully felt.
One reporter said continued talk of a
diplomatic solution might lull Iran into believing that a military strike will
“We have not taken any option off the table,” the US official
He also spoke of the strong bond between Israel and the US,
and said his country was committed to Israel’s security.
asked him about Clinton’s remarks
– which made headlines in the Israeli media –
that she did not believe Jonathan Pollard would be released from
Pollard has been in a an American prison since 1987 for passing
classified information to Israel.
Clinton’s trip to Israel was partially
seen as an attempt by the Obama administration to demonstrate its strong ties
with Israel, in order to counter the media impact of a visit later this month by
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“What was the political
logic of Clinton’s comments on Pollard?” the reporter asked.
answered, “I did not think she said anything that newsworthy.” He noted that
Clinton was not tasked with dealing with the Pollard issue, and had simply
repeated the official US position – which was well known and had not
“She described the situation,” he said.