Mofaz talks tougher Iran sanctions with US officials

Vice premier meets with Congressmen, Clinton in Washington in wake of inconclusive meeting between world powers, Iran.

Mofaz and Clinton 370 (photo credit: Ron Sachs / CNP)
Mofaz and Clinton 370
(photo credit: Ron Sachs / CNP)
WASHINGTON – Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz consulted Wednesday with members of Congress on how to move forward with stiffer sanctions against Iran in the wake of another inconclusive meeting between world powers and Tehran.
An aide to Rep. Howard Berman, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the congressman’s meeting with Mofaz in Washington addressed “ways in which crippling sanctions can be taken to the next level.”
Berman and other members of the committee have been key in driving through sanctions against Iran, and Israel has been concerned that the nuclear talks would lead to less aggressive action from the international community to stop Tehran’s nuclear program.
Later Wednesday, Mofaz discussed Iran with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Following their meeting Mofaz released a written statement saying: "It is time for the United States and Western powers to impose more severe sanctions in the oil embargo and financial sectors in order to stop Iran's nuclear development program."
Mofaz said that in addition to economic steps there was a need "to continue to prepare all other options", an oblique suggestion that a military attack to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon remained a possible course of action.
On Tuesday Mofaz said that any military action against Iran – a path of last resort – should be led by the United States.
“The use of military power should be the last option, and I believe that this option should be led by the US and the Western countries,” Mofaz, who is a former defense minister, told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
He also said leaders should ask two questions before deciding to take such a step: “We should ask ourselves how much will we delay the Iranian program – how many months, how many years – and what will happen the day after in the region.”
Mofaz also told the Washington think tanks that Israel should try to move forward in the peace process, and at least to try to reach an interim agreement.
The Obama administration is hoping that Mofaz’s more moderate positions toward making a deal will add momentum to a stagnating negotiating process now that his Kadima party is part of the coalition.
The theme was also one he raised with members of Congress, the Berman aide said.
Mofaz thanked Berman for all his support for funding for the Iron Dome rocket-defense system, according to the aide. America has recently contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to help Israel speed up deployment of the systems.
“The ongoing destructive and indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza further demonstrates that Congress was right to secure additional funding for the deployment of Iron Dome missile defense batteries,” Berman said in a statement released after their meeting. “Iron Dome is a game changer, saving innocent lives and protecting Israelis.”
Reuters contributed to this report