PM urges 'military sanctions' threat against Iran

Netanyahu says if sanctions don't work, there are other ways to get Iran to heed international community.

Netanyahu370 (2013) (photo credit: Pool/ Emil Salman)
Netanyahu370 (2013)
(photo credit: Pool/ Emil Salman)
As the major powers’ talks with Iran ended in Kazakhstan Wednesday with only a promise to meet again in March and April, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the world must make clear to Tehran that there will be “military sanctions” if it does not halt its nuclear program.
Netanyahu’s comments came at a Jerusalem meeting with visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris.
“Iran continues to defy the international community, and does not seem to seek an end to its military nuclear program,” he said.
“Like North Korea, it continues to defy all international standards.”
As a result, Netanyahu said, “I believe that this requires the international community to ratchet up its sanctions and make clear that if this continues there will also be a credible military sanction. I think no other means will make Iran obey the wishes of the international community.”
US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represented the US at the talks, is expected to come to Israel Thursday and brief Israeli officials on the developments.
The other countries in the group known as the P5+1 negotiating with the Iranians are Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Israeli officials said before the current round of talks that they were extremely skeptical that the discussions would yield any tangible results, and that the Iranians were merely using the negotiations to “buy time.”
Iran, meanwhile, was upbeat on Wednesday after the talks in Almaty ended with an agreement to meet again, although Western officials said Tehran had yet to take concrete steps to ease their fears about its atomic ambitions.
Rapid progress was deemed unlikely with Iran’s presidential election, due in June, raising domestic political tensions. At the talks, the first in some eight months, The P5+1 offered modest sanctions relief in return for Iran curbing its most sensitive nuclear work, but made clear that they expected no immediate breakthrough.
In an attempt to make their proposals more palatable to Iran, the six powers appeared to have softened previous demands somewhat, for example regarding their requirement that the Islamic state ship out its stockpile of higher-grade uranium.
Israel has said it expects any agreement to lead to an end to all Iranian uranium enrichment, as well as the transfer out of the country of all stockpiles of enriched uranium.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the powers had tried to “get closer to our viewpoint,” which he said was positive.
In Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry commented that the talks had been “useful” and that a serious engagement by Iran could lead to a comprehensive deal.
Iran’s foreign minister said in Vienna he was “very confident” an agreement could be reached and Jalili, the chief negotiator, said he believed the Almaty meeting could be a “turning point.”
However, one diplomat said Iranian officials at the negotiations appeared to be suggesting that they were opening new avenues, but it was not clear if this was really the case.
Iran expert Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said: “Everyone is saying Iran was more positive and portrayed the talks as a win.”
“I reckon the reason for that is that they are saving face internally while buying time with the West until after the elections,” she said.
The two sides agreed to hold expert-level talks in Istanbul on March 18 to discuss the powers’ proposals, and return to Almaty for political discussions on April 5-6, when Western diplomats made clear they wanted to see a substantive response from Iran.
“Iran knows what it needs to do, the president has made clear his determination to implement his policy that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said.
Western officials said the offer presented by the six powers included an easing of a ban on trade in gold and other precious metals, and relaxing an import embargo on Iranian petrochemical products. They gave no further details.
In exchange, a senior US official said, Iran would among other things have to suspend uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent at its Fordow underground facility and “constrain the ability to quickly resume operations there.”
The official did not describe what was being asked of Iran as a “shutdown” of the plant as Western diplomats had said in previous meetings with the Islamic Republic last year.
Iran’s growing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium is already more than half-way to a “red line” that Israel has made clear it would consider sufficient for a bomb. Twenty-percent purity is far higher than what is needed for nuclear power, and is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade uranium.
Iran says it produces the higher-grade uranium to fuel a research reactor.
In Vienna on Wednesday, a senior UN nuclear agency official told diplomats in a closed-door briefing that Iran was technically ready to sharply increase this higher-grade enrichment, two Western diplomats said.
“Iran can triple 20% production in the blink of an eye,” one of the diplomats said.
The US official in Almaty said the powers’ latest proposal would “significantly restrict the accumulation of near 20% enriched uranium in Iran, while enabling the Iranians to produce sufficient fuel” for their Tehran medical reactor.
This appeared to be a softening of a previous demand that Iran ship out its stockpile of higher-grade enriched uranium, which it says it needs to produce medical isotopes.
Iran has often indicated that 20% enrichment could be up for negotiation if it received the fuel from abroad instead.
Jalili suggested Iran could discuss the issue, although he appeared to rule out shutting down Fordow. He said the powers had not made that specific demand.