Two days before six world powers sit down in Baghdad for talks with Iran, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unequivocally declared Monday that Israel would only
be satisfied if Iran halted all uranium enrichment and shipped its stockpiles
out of the country.
In addition, at a speech at a Civil Service
Commission event in Jerusalem, he said Tehran must close its underground nuclear
facility at Qom.
“This is the only way it will be possible to ensure that
Iran does not get a nuclear bomb,” he said. “This is Israel’s
position. It has not changed, and it will not change.”
minister’s comments came even as International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya
Amano held rare talks in Tehran on Monday.
Amano, who was on his first
trip to the Islamic Republic since taking office in 2009, was also due to meet
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar
“I really think this is the right time to reach
agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive,” Amano, a veteran
Japanese diplomat with long experience in nuclear proliferation and disarmament
affairs, said before departure from the Vienna airport. He added that “good
progress” had already been made.
Netanyahu, however, did not share
Amano’s positive take on the course of events.
Referring to comments that
Iranian Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi made Sunday that “the
Iranian nation is standing for its cause, which is the full annihilation of
Israel,” Netanyahu said Iran’s goals were clear.
“It wants to annihilate
Israel, and is developing nuclear weapons to realize this goal,” he
The prime minister ridiculed those who claim that when Iran’s
leaders say they want to wipe Israel off the map, they actually “mean something
else in Farsi. It will be interesting to hear what they say of the Iranian chief
of staff’s remarks yesterday.”
Netanyahu said Iran was threatening not
only Israel, but the whole world, and that the world’s powers must show
determination, not weakness, in the face of Iran’s malicious designs. The world
powers, he said, needed to make clear and unequivocal demands of Iran, and not
Defense Minister Ehud Barak articulated similar
sentiments, warning at a meeting of his Independence faction on Monday that the
Iranians were trying to play Amano off against the world powers – the US,
Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – whom they will meet
According to Barak, Iran will say to the world powers, “Why
are you getting involved, we are discussing these things with the IAEA; and that
when there are things that are not comfortable discussing with the IAEA, the
Iranians will say, that is what we are talking about” with the world
In Barak’s assessment, the Iranians will try to create the
appearance of progress to get some of the sanctions revoked and relieve some of
the world’s intense pressure.
“We have made our position clear,” Barak
said. “We have shared it with those involved, including during my last visit to
Washington [over the weekend].
Israel thinks that the bar has to be set
in such a manner – the demand that they stop enrichment – that does not allow
for any Iranian [nuclear] development.”
A Western diplomat, meanwhile,
said of the upcoming Baghdad meeting that “we are not going to do anything
concrete in exchange for nice words.”
By dangling the prospect of
enhanced cooperation with UN inspectors, diplomats say, Iran might aim for
leverage in the Baghdad talks where the US and its allies will make
Some diplomats and analysts said Amano, given a recent history
of mistrustful relations with Iran, would go to Tehran only if he believed a
framework agreement to give his inspectors freer hands in their investigation
was close. Iran has been stonewalling IAEA requests for better access for four
“Amano would not have traveled to Tehran had he not been provided
with assurances that progress could be made. If he returns to Vienna
empty-handed, the embarrassment will be more damaging for Tehran than the
agency,” said Ali Vaez, senior analyst at the International Crisis
“However, if the IAEA is satisfied with Tehran’s cooperation,
Iranian negotiators will have a new trump card to play at the negotiating table
The UN nuclear watchdog is seeking access to sites, nuclear
officials, scientists and documents to shed light on work in Iran applicable to
developing the capability to make nuclear weapons, especially the Parchin
military complex outside Tehran.
Reuters contributed to this report.