US has ‘folded’ on Iran, Israeli political sources charge

Sources: Israel learned over the weekend of deal on the table in Geneva that is far worse than one previously presented to J'lem.

Geneva nuclear talks November 9, 2013 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jean-Christophe Bott/Pool )
Geneva nuclear talks November 9, 2013 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jean-Christophe Bott/Pool )
The US folded during negotiations in Geneva with Iran over its nuclear project, political sources in Israel charged on Saturday. They added that Israel was stunned when it learned over the weekend that a version of the deal being proposed was far worse than it believed.
Senior political sources said that the deal that has been sitting on the negotiations table since the weekend is “very bad.” It calls on Iran to stop enriching uranium to the 20 percent level, but allows them to continue enriching uranium to 3.5% at all of its enrichment sites. In addition it fails to place a limitation on the number of centrifuges in Tehran’s possession, estimated to number 19,000.
Under the proposed deal, “Iran won’t really be paying a significant price,” a source added.
“To our understanding, they’re receiving a significant easing of sanctions,” he added.
Rewards to Iran include the unfreezing of $3 billion of fuel funds, an easing of sanctions on the petrochemical and gold sectors, an easing of sanctions on replacement parts for planes and a loosening of restrictions on the Iranian car industry.
If such a deal goes ahead, “We might head down a lane that will lead to a collapse of the sanctions regime. This is very grave,” the source continued. “This won’t really stop the [nuclear] project. It will give the Iranians breathing space.”
Israel’s position is that as long as Iran continues, sanctions must not be lifted, and should even be tightened.
If Iran freezes its nuclear program, holding off on new sanctions would be acceptable from an Israeli perspective, but easing them would be a major error.
Israel received updates on the talks from the US on Wednesday, as well as from others, and believed that the deal taking shape would be limited to unfreezing $3b. of Iranian assets in Western bank accounts. Even at that stage, Israel objected to the plan, due to its assessment that the moment a crack in the door appears, and sanctions are eased, the door can then be torn down by international companies from countries such as China, Italy and Germany who are thirsty for business with Iran.
Once major international transactions begin, a dynamic will kick in that will lead to a collapse of sanctions, according to this evaluation.
But over the weekend, Israel learned that the deal on the table is far worse than the one presented to it on Wednesday, and included four clauses for the easing of sanctions rather than just one. Israeli officials said they became furious when the details of the actual deal reached them, describing it as an “enormous mistake.”
“[US Secretary of State John] Kerry left with food for thought after a tough conversation with [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu,” the political source said.
At the same time, he stressed, the US did not deceive Israel. Instead, the Americans “folded” between Wednesday and the weekend, “maybe because they very much want to reach an agreement and be done with this,” he added.
“The Iranians are the ones who came crawling to the negotiations, begging for an easing of sanctions, otherwise their regime will fall, and what’s incredible is that it seems that the Americans are more eager than them to reach an agreement,” the source charged.
If the deal is signed, the momentum against Iran could fall apart, he warned.
Israeli officials believe that Iran isn’t far from the point where it will have to decide to give up on the nuclear project in favor of economic survival, and are incredulous that at the moment of truth, a poor deal is being floated.
The source paid tribute to France for its firm stance against the agreement, adding that Britain is following the soft line being pushed by the US.
The delays in reaching an agreement between the P5+1 countries and Iran in the Geneva talks could well be due to Israel’s deep dissatisfaction, officials said, as well as France’s objections.
“At the moment it seems like every side is trying to improve its stance,” the source said.
The international community must know how to engage in tough diplomacy with Iran if it wishes to avoid seeing military force used against the Islamic Republic, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon cautioned on Saturday.
He added that an agreement between Iran and the international community over Tehran’s nuclear program under the proposed terms would be a “historic mistake.”
“Specifically now, when the Iranian regime is in great economic distress and is anxious about its survival, Western countries must not blink and strike a bad deal, which will grant Iran breathing space and ease the sanctions on the one hand, and won’t cause it to make real concessions on the nuclear project on the other,” Ya’alon said.
“It’s important for those who want to prevent a need to use force against Iran to know how to manage tough diplomacy, to bring the Iranian regime to a junction in which it’ll have to choose between its survival or a continuation of the nuclear project,” he added.
He called on the international community “not to be blinded” by the Iranian charm offensive.
“An agreement now, under current conditions, is a historic mistake that will allow the warmongering regime in Tehran to continue with its dangerous nuclear program, and its ambition to spread terrorism and undermine regimes across the Middle East, and the whole world,” the defense minister warned.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said the talks in Geneva raise concern.
“Now it seems that the basis of the interim agreement is not dismantlement of Iran’s ability to develop a bomb, but just a freeze, and that is not enough, because in the meantime sanctions are lessened and Iran can breathe easily and restart armament at any time,” Yacimovich said at a cultural event in the southern Sharon region on Saturday.
The Labor leader called it “worrying” that the talks in Iran come “at the height of a crisis in our relations with the Americans.”
“[Netanyahu] must remember that our friendship with the US is our most important strategic asset,” she added. “We must accelerate peace talks, and a wave of construction in the territories is the opposite of that. As long as the peace process is stuck and the US is distancing itself from us, we lose influence on the Iranian issue.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said that “the emerging agreement between Iran and the world powers is emptying sanctions of any content.”
“Iran immediately gets less sanctions in exchange for false promises to delay its nuclear program,” he said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.