Mossad director Tamir Pardo (L) confers with Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In an extremely unusual step, the Mossad issued a statement on Thursday denying the intelligence agency was lobbying US lawmakers against stiffer Iran sanctions and saying that such legislation may lead to a collapse of talks with the Islamic Republic.
The statement came as the climax to a bizarre series of events that ended with Mossad head Tamir Pardo contradicting a public statement made by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The incident started when Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a special joint session of Congress to speak about the Iranian threat and apparently back tougher sanctions, something many in the Republican-led Congress are supporting.
US President Barack Obama, however, made clear in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night that he would veto any additional sanctions bill. And Kerry said publicly on Wednesday that one of Israel’s top intelligence officials – a reference Bloomberg later reported was Pardo – told a visiting Senate delegation earlier in the week that increasing sanctions now “would be like throwing a grenade into the process.”
Were the Mossad to take that position, it would directly contradict the policy of Netanyahu, who is calling for tougher sanctions against Iran.
According to the Mossad statement, Pardo met on Monday, with Netanyahu’s approval, with the Senate delegation and emphasized the “exceptional effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran in recent years,” noting that the sanctions are what drove Iran to the negotiation table. Pardo said it is ”essential” in talks with Iran to present both carrots and sticks, and that currently the sticks are lacking.
He also said that in the absence of strong pressure, the Iranians will not make meaningful compromises.
Regrading the use of the phrase “throwing a grenade,” cited by Kerry, the statement clarified that Pardo did not use that expression regarding the imposition of sanctions, which he believes are the “sticks” necessary to reach a “good deal” with Iran. Rather, the statement read, Pardo used that expression “as a metaphor to describe the possibility of creating a temporary crisis in the negotiations at the end of which talks would resume under improved conditions.”
The statement said Pardo made it clear “the bad agreement taking shape with Iran is likely to lead to a regional arms race.”