Netanyahu: Continued sanctions on Iran preferable to bad deal, war

“There are not just two possibilities on the Iranian issue: A bad deal – or war,” says PM.

Netanyahu measuring hand gesture 370 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Netanyahu measuring hand gesture 370
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continued to go head-to-head with the US over a possible Iran deal, telling the Knesset Wednesday that it is wrong to say there are only two possibilities regarding Iran: a deal or military action.
“There are not just two possibilities on the Iranian issue: A bad deal – or war,” he said.
“This is incorrect. There is a third possibility – and that is continuing the pressure of sanctions. I would even say that a bad deal is liable to lead to the second, undesired, result.”
Netanyahu has been loudly raising the alarm over a potential deal between the world powers and Iran for a week, but Wednesday’s remarks appeared to be a direct response to comments made a day earlier by White House spokesman Jay Carney and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“The consequences of not moving forward with the diplomatic path is potentially aggression, potentially conflict, potentially war,” Psaki said to reporters.
US Secretary of State John Kerry went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon to deliver just that message to a powerful and, thus far, skeptical group of senators prepared to move forward should Iran insist on continuing uranium enrichment.
“We’re committed to conveying to them what the consequences are – why this is the right legislative strategy,” Psaki said.
Carney, slamming Congressional efforts to clamp tougher sanctions on Iran, said, “It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?” His comments came as the US administration was lobbying intensively against Senate voting for tougher sanctions on Iran.
“The American people do not want a march to war,” Carney said.
After disputing this characterization of the situation, Netanyahu added in his Knesset speech, “There is no reason to submit to Iranian diktat; neither is there any reason to be hasty. Iran is under very harsh economic pressure and the advantage is with those applying the pressure. It is possible to achieve a good deal to dismantle Iran’s military nuclear capability.
This cannot be achieved by the proposal now being discussed in Geneva.”
While Netanyahu and Israeli government officials have come under criticism from some in Washington – including Kerry – for opposing the deal even without knowing all the details, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel was “very well informed and knows exactly what we are speaking about.”
Steinitz, speaking to the Jerusalem Press Club, said that not only did Israel have a “very open dialogue and contacts with almost all the participants to the Geneva talks, including the Americans,” but that it also has “quite good intelligence coverage of the Iranians.”
“We know the details,” he said. “I’m not confident that everybody, including the participating countries, know the details like us to such a degree.”
One of the disputes that has emerged between the US and Israel has to do with the sanctions relief, with the US saying that what has been offered does not touch the overall sanctions architecture and is “modest and reversible,” while Israel counters that not only is the relief significant, but once sanctions are relieved, it will be extremely difficult to get them back in place.
According to Steinitz, if the sanctions were fully implemented in 2014, they would cost the Iranians some $100 billion, a significant chunk of the country’s annual $400- 450b. GDP.
“The sanctions relief will directly reduce $15-$20b. out of this amount,” he said. “This will be a contribution to the Iranian GDP.”
In addition, he said, once there is sanctions relief it will be difficult to keep up the same level of sanctions enforcement around the world. Steinitz estimated that “the damage to the overall sanctions will be something between $20b. to even $40b., or something between 20 percent to 40 percent of the sanctions.”
But Psaki directly criticized Steinitz’s claims.
“I did see those reports,” she said. “That number, I can assure you, is inaccurate, exaggerated, and not based in reality.
“You can safely assume they’re lower,” she added.
US President Barack Obama called French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday to discuss the deal, which Fabius had criticized in Geneva as a “sucker’s deal.”
“The United States and France are in full agreement regarding the P5+1’s unified proposal to Iran and the approach to negotiations,” the White House said in a statement after the call, calling the proposed interim deal “a sound step forward.”
Meanwhile, France’s ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, said Wednesday that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will be accompanying Hollande on his trip to Israel next week, was responsible for the world powers not signing an agreement with Iran in Geneva on Saturday night.
Maisonnave, in a briefing with reporters, said that while Paris and Washington did not differ on the goal of keeping Iran from nuclear weapons, France sought guarantees to ensure this did not happen.
Among the guarantees were that Iran would not pursue a plutonium track to an atom bomb by developing its heavy water reactor at Arak and would not increase its stockpile of enriched uranium.
In Maisonnave’s telling, Kerry adopted the French positions and afterward they became the positions accepted by the P5+1, which in addition to the US and France also includes Russia, China, Britain and Germany.
Senior US officials have disputed this, saying that not only the French, but other members of the P5+1 also sought “clarifying amendments” from the Iranians.
The ambassador said that France has stood strongly beside Israel on the Iranian issue and on security matters, and he estimated that after the events over the weekend in Geneva, Israeli would show its appreciation during Hollande’s upcoming visit.