A US military option with regard to Iran remains on the table should Tehran violate the terms of a framework agreement to curb its nuclear program, according to US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
“Certainly, if Iran violates the agreement, all options are on the table related to Iran, including military options,” Rhodes said Monday night in an interview with Channel 2.
“We believe it is best if we do not have to exercise that option and Iran complies with this type of good comprehensive deal,” he said, saying he believed the agreement would keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
US President Barack Obama has said he hopes to finalize the deal in June.
Rhodes added that the sanctions regime against Tehran could be snapped back into place should there be any violation of the deal. Iran has to earn their lifting.
“We are providing sanctions relief using the president’s waiver authority, which he can turn on or turn off,” he said.
Rhodes spoke with both Channel 2 and Channel 10 a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advocated against the agreement on three major US networks: CNN, ABC and NBC. As part of the US media blitz in Israel, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro spoke with Channel 1.
In a sign of a possible thaw in the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama, both Rhodes and Shapiro attempted to show that their disagreements were over policy.
In what was perceived as a diplomatic snub from the White House, Obama did not meet with Netanyahu when the prime minister visited Washington in March to speak to a joint session of Congress against the Iran deal.
It was the first time Netanyahu came to town without having a personal meeting with the president.
Rhodes assured Israelis that Obama would meet with Netanyahu in Washington.
“We have not extended any invitations yet,” he said, but added that this would likely happen once a new Israeli government was formed.
“There will certainly be an occasion for the two of them to meet in Washington going forward,” he said.
Rhodes noted, however, that the two leaders had spoken at length by phone and would continue to do so.
“When they pick up the phone, they talk to each other, but they have the type of conversations that you would expect of two leaders who have had substantive policy differences,” he said. “But they had the conversation.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Channel 2 that Israel trusts Washington’s intentions. It simply doesn’t trust the Iranians, who, he believed, would be able to continue their nuclear program under the terms of the deal.
Worse, Ya’alon explained, the Iranian nuclear program would now have international legitimacy.
A policy paper put forth by Israeli officials, including Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, has provided a detailed explanation as to why Israel opposes the deal, which it believes “paves the path” to a nuclear Iran.
“Not a single nuclear facility will be shut down. Iran will be permitted to continue its advanced centrifuge R&D, and its intercontinental ballistic missile program remains unaddressed,” the paper says, adding that sanctions relief would give Iran’s economy a boost and provide billions of dollars that Tehran could use to support terrorist activity in the region and around the world.
The paper focuses in particular on a list of 10 questions that should be answered by the six powers – the US, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany – that worked out the framework deal with Iran in Switzerland last week.
1. Why are sanctions, which took years to put in place, being removed immediately, as the Iranians claim? This would take away the international community’s primary leverage at the outset of the agreement and make Iranian compliance less likely.
2. Given Iran’s track record of concealing illicit nuclear activities, why does the framework not explicitly require that it accept inspections of all installations where suspected nuclear weapons development has been conducted? Why can’t inspectors conduct inspections anywhere, anytime?
3. Will Iran ever be forced to come clean about its past nuclear weaponization activity?
4. What will be the fate of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium?
5. Why will Iran be allowed to continue research and development on centrifuges that are far more advanced than those currently in its possession?
6. Why does the framework not address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?
7. Following Iranian violations of the framework, how effective will the mechanism to reinstitute sanctions be?
8. What message does the framework send to states in the region and around the world when it gives such far-reaching concessions to a regime that for years has defied UN Security Council resolutions? Why would this not encourage nuclear proliferation?
9. The framework agreement appears to have much in common with the nuclear agreement reached with North Korea. How will this deal differ from the North Korean case?
10. Why is the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade not linked to a change in its behavior? According to the framework, Iran could remain the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism and still have all the restrictions removed.
Instead, the removal of those restrictions should be linked to a cessation of Iran’s aggression in the Middle East, its terrorism around the world and its threats to annihilate Israel.