Hagel: Israeli threats, sanctions helped push Iran to nuclear talks

Rouhani says he's not optimistic about nuclear talks with West.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who continued to pound the drum Monday against any concessions to the Iranians during negotiations, received a nod of approval from an unexpected source on Monday: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is legitimately concerned, as any prime minister of Israel has been, about the future security needs of their country,” Hagel said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, part of which was published on Monday.
Goldberg wrote that Hagel said Netanyahu’s threats of military action, along with the pressure of sanctions, may have encouraged the Iranians to take negotiations seriously.
“It’s true that sanctions – not just US sanctions but UN sanctions, multilateral sanctions – have done tremendous economic damage,” Hagel said. “Even many of Iran’s leaders have acknowledged that. And I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat. I think all of this, combined, probably brought the Iranians to where we are today. Whether the Iranians will carry forth on that, we’ll see.”
His words came just a week after Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks widely interpreted as aimed at Netanyahu, said the US would not succumb to “fear tactics” aimed at preventing negotiation with Iran.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, used a press opportunity with visiting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski to draw attention to the massive anti- US and anti-Israel rally on Monday in Tehran marking 34 years to the takeover of the US Embassy there.
“While we are meeting here in Jerusalem, tens of thousands of people are chanting ‘Death to America’ in the streets of Tehran,” he said. “If you want to see the true face of this regime, see it there – chants of ‘Death to America.’” Netanyahu, referring to the debate in the West whether Iran has changed, said “they have obviously changed their style. They speak now in English and they smile. Yeah, they smile in the talks in Europe.”
But, he said, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rules Iran, fuels the hatred in the streets.
“That’s the real Iran. That’s the boss of Iran. That’s what Iran wants to do, this country that sends terrorists around the world, including to Washington, DC, to kill the Saudi ambassador; this country that participates in the mass murder of tens of thousands of men, women and children in Damascus; this country that continuously defies UN Security Council resolutions telling it to stop developing nuclear weapons. This country is saying, chanting ‘Death to America.’”
Referring to Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) which will resume on Thursday, Netanyahu said that the Iranians “shouldn’t be given a free pass. They shouldn’t be given a partial deal that allows them to keep most or all of their nuclear weapons capability for the exchange of reducing sanctions. America and the P5+1 should listen to the chants of ‘Death to America” in Tehran, [and] give no discounts to Tehran.”
Rouhani 'not optimistic' about nuclear talks
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that he was not optimistic about the success of nuclear talks with the West, echoing statements made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on his Twitter page.
"The government is not optimistic about the Westerners and the current negotiations," he was quoted as saying by Iranian news agency IRNA.
"But it does not mean that we should not have hope for removing the problems," Rouhani added, referring to international sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy.
On Sunday, Khamenei tweeted that he was not optimistic about the outcome of the negotiations, and that even if they failed, it would increase Iran’s self-reliance.
"I am not optimistic about the negotiations but, with the grace of God, we will not suffer losses either," Khamenei said. "I do not think the negotiations will produce the results expected by Iran."
He advised against “trusting an enemy who smiles” and “expresses a desire for talks,” while on the other hand says “all options are on the table.”
Despite that, he backed Rouhani by urging hardliners in Tehran not to undermine the talks.
"No one should consider our negotiators as compromisers. This is wrong. These are our own children, the offspring of the Islamic Revolution," Khamenei said.
“Our negotiators are in charge of a difficult task and no one should weaken an agent who is engaged doing work,” he added.
The next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, made of the US, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain, is due to take place on Thursday and Friday in Geneva.