Report: Mossad undercuts Netanyahu, warns US Congress against more Iran sanctions

Israeli intelligence officials have apparently come around to the same view shared by both the Obama administration as well as American spy agencies.

January 22, 2015 08:06
3 minute read.
Mossad director Tamir Pardo (L) confers with Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen

Mossad director Tamir Pardo (L) confers with Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel’s political leadership is in disagreement with top members of its intelligence services over the benefit of more Congressional sanctions on Iran as negotiations over its disputed nuclear program continue, Bloomberg News is reporting on Thursday.

The rift is so severe that it compelled the Mossad to contradict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and directly warn US Congressional officials that more sanctions against the Islamic Republic at this juncture could effectively spell the end of negotiations, according to Bloomberg.

Israeli intelligence officials have apparently come around to the same view shared by both the Obama administration as well as American spy agencies who say that any attempts by lawmakers to pass tougher anti-Iran legislation could chase Tehran from the negotiating table.

Netanyahu has gone on record as enthusiastically supporting sanctions while placing little faith that talks with the Islamic Republic would yield an agreement that would meet Israel’s security needs.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are expected to  press ahead with a plan for more sanctions on Iran, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said last week, despite White House warnings that they risked derailing nuclear talks.

Lawmakers, who say they fear Obama administration negotiators may not take a hard enough line with Tehran, are also at work on a separate bill to have Congress approve any final agreement on Iran's nuclear program, Senator Bob Corker, the chairman, told Reuters in an interview.

"There's continual efforts to try to figure out a way for Congress to play a role to strengthen whatever final deal may occur," the Tennessee Republican senator said.

Republican Senator Mark Kirk and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez are finalizing a bill for tougher sanctions on Iran if there is no final nuclear deal by June 30.

The Senate Banking Committee is due to hold a hearing on Iran sanctions on Tuesday, said Corker, a member also of that panel.

Kirk and Menendez introduced a sanctions bill in December 2013, but it did not come up for a vote in the Senate, then controlled by President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, who lost control of the chamber because of big losses in November elections.

The White House has insisted passage of a sanctions bill now - even one that would impose new restrictions only if there is no deal by the deadline - could prompt Iran to back out of the nuclear talks with six world powers.

According to Bloomberg, both the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the influential America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been pushing for the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would impose harsher economic penalties against Iran if there is no agreement in the P5+1 talks by the June 30 deadline.

Congressional leaders, however, were surprised to learn that Mossad officials had briefed a number of key lawmakers, lobbying against the bill. Bloomberg reported that the briefing prompted Menendez to seek clarifications from Israel's envoy to Washington, Ron Dermer.

“We met with a number of government officials from many different parts of the government,” Republican representative John Barrasso, one of the deputies present during the Mossad briefing, told Bloomberg. “There’s not a uniform view there.”

The Iranian nuclear matter has apparently turned into the latest political football that has entailed the GOP Congressional leadership, the White House, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Mossad, which is being played against the backdrop of Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

In his State of the Union address before the nation on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said that new sanctions on Iran would “all but guarantee that diplomacy fails,” heightening the prospects of war.

“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies – including Israel – while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict,” the president said.

“There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he continued. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.”

The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, responded by inviting Netanyahu to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress, prompting an angry response from the White House.

Michael Wilner and Reuters contributed to this report.

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