Israeli officials: U.S. admits Iran will get $20b from sanctions relief

U.S. officials admit to Israeli colleagues that they greatly underestimated the economic benefits Tehran would reap from Geneva accord.

The Iranian economy is already showing signs of growth. / Photo by AP
By Amos Harel
Published 03:27 11.12.13

Senior officials in the administration of President Barack Obama have conceded over the past few days in conversations with colleagues in Israel that the value of the economic sanctions relief to Iran could be much higher than originally thought in Washington, security sources in Israel told Haaretz.

In official statements by the United States immediately after the agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program was signed in Geneva between Iran and theF six powers at the end of November it was said that the economic relief Iran would receive in exchange for signing the agreement would be relatively low – $6 billion or $7 billion. Israeli assessments were much higher – about $20 billion at least.

The United States had originally intended to make do with unfreezing Iranian assets in the amount of $3 billion to $4 billion. But during negotiations in Geneva, the P5+1 countries backtracked from their opening position and approved much more significant relief in a wide variety of areas: commerce in gold, the Iranian petrochemical industry, the car industry and replacement parts for civilian aircraft. But the Americans said at the time that this would at most double the original amount.

However according to the Israeli version, the Americans now concede in their talks with Israel that the sanctions relief are worth much more. According to the security sources: “Economics is a matter of expectations. The Iranian stock exchange is already rising significantly and many countries are standing in line to renew economic ties with Iran based on what was already agreed in Geneva.” The sources mentioned China’s desire to renew contracts worth some $9 billion to develop the Iranian oil industry and the interest some German companies are showing for deals with Tehran. “In any case, it’s about 20 or 25 billion dollars. Even the Americans understand this,” the sources said.

The interim agreement is to come into force on January 15. Until then, Iran is not restricted in terms of moving ahead on its nuclear program. Israel was surprised by the public statement by Obama at the Saban Forum in Washington late last week, that the agreements allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium. This is seen as an unnecessary concession considering that negotiations with Iran are still underway. However, the Israeli leadership seems to be seeking to somewhat lower its contentious tones toward Washington after two weeks of public scuffling and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most recent speech with regard to Iran, also to the Saban Forum, was relatively moderate.

But along with efforts to renew intelligence and diplomatic coordination between the two countries on the nuclear issue, tussles are expected to continue between Obama and Netanyahu in another important arena – the U.S. Congress. The administration is very concerned about the objections to the agreement in Geneva by senators and congress members on both sides of the aisle. A few prominent opponents of the agreement who are experts in foreign affairs and frequently express themselves on the Middle East have articulated doubts about the deal and have called for additional heavy sanctions on Iran if the accord falls through.

Although Israel has not said so publicly, it is clear that Netanyahu’s representatives have also been in touch with these lawmakers in recent weeks. Among them are Republican senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Mark Kirk and Congressman Eric Cantor and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez and Congressman Steny Hoyer.

The extent of the administrations’ concern can be seen in an editorial in Tuesday's New York Times. The paper reads as if it is quoting Obama’s messages on the Middle East. The article warned against the initiative of senators Kirk and Menendez to prepare new legislation that would complete the very effective sanctions moves they led against Iran a few years ago. According to the proposal, which has the behind-the-scenes support of senior Israeli officials, new sanctions would be instituted if at the end of the six months set out in the interim agreement a satisfactory arrangement is not reached with the Iranians.

The Times warns that the breakthrough attained in Geneva, which it calls the most positive development in relations between the United States and Iran in 30 years, will be put at risk by the initiatives in Congress. The interim agreement is “unquestionably a good deal,” which is preferable to military action and the paper joins the warnings issued both by the White House and the Iranian government against legislation that would sabotage the agreements implementation. According to the Times, moves by Kirk, Menendez and other senior officials are unnecessary and will “enrage the Iranians.” It seems that the U.S. lawmakers are not impressed by this prospect and Netanyahu even less so. In the American-Israeli dispute, the tones may be more muted, but the scene of the next clash is clear – Congress in Washington.


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  • 16.
    I believe it was their money to begin with. We had no right to freeze it in the first place.
  • 15.
    tax payer's money to Iran
    Good thing we are only $17 TRILLION in debt....
  • 14.
    iran agreement
    By now we should know that anything the islamo-fascist muslims, a.k.a. iran agrees to is ONLY to their own benefit. The ayatolahs will never agree to any "diplomatic solutions" if it includes stopping their "peaceful" uranium enrichment program, after all, it is their inalienable right to enrich uranium to any level of concentration and who is going to stop them? obama? yeh, fat chance of that happening. Israel will do what she has to do - before it is too late / the sooner the better!
  • Stop talking and actually DO something.
  • Fine, but quit begging the US to do it FOR you.
  • 13.
    This is probably the same type of misinformation that US supposedly received from UN inspectors (spies) and CIA that made US and allied
    forces attack Iraq.
  • 12.
    Israeli officials:
    For all we know, since the source is Israeli, this is part of a disinformation campaign, initiated by the Israeli government and aimed at destabilising the momentum of the gradualism toward peace. I find it more than just plain "circumstances" that this "information" should emerge at the same moment that Israel's stooges in Congress are advocating more and tougher sanctions, all the while KNOWING that this will completely rupture what was achieved in Geneva. Everybody knows that this is an interim deal, and even a final deal won't be perfect - BUT, it is a whole lot better than Israel committing American blood and treasure to try and crush Iran.
  • 11.
    United States of Israel
    There should be a name change sooner than later so that the reality of the last 50 years is made clear to all, What is this nonsense that the US - the number one nation in the world - has to concede to officials of this small western outpost in the Middle East. To once again note that the House of Representatives and Senate of this same USA is directed by representatives of the aforementioned western outpost.
  • 10.
    We all knew Hussein Obama would try and destroy Israel in his last term
  • Heads UP! EVERYTHING is not about Israel. The US and Iran had
    a great trade relationship, before the debacle of forcing the shah on the Iranians. Ever since then, Iran has been asking for a peace treaty. Most Americans want one. If Israel quits complaining about Iran, Iran will ignore Israel. So, put up or shut up.
  • QUIT expecting Obama to run Israel. Get a PM who can do it, or shut up.
    If you want a war with Iran, go tell Banny to do it!
  • We all knew
    Memo to A; "We all knew that Hussein Obama would try and destroy Israel.....". I am part of "all", and I didn't know. I also happen to believe, with great sympathy and empathy for Israel, that attempting to avoid armed conflict - especially when that Conflict would be financed, both in blood and treasure by the US taxpayer - is better than being led into a war which cannot be won. Note - this would be a war where the US (and Israel) will lose if they do not win, whereas Iran would win, as ling as it does not lose. Security for Israel does not lie with more and more force, and further and further oppression - neither of the Palestinians nor of the Iranians. Security lies in making a deal with them.............
  • So few words, so much nonsense
    The US and Iran had only a modest trade relationship in 1953. The UK had the greater involvement (oil, of course), but both the UK and US were concerned about Soviet influence in the country. The next 25 years or so under the Shah suggest the UK and US made the right decision. Unlike others in the region, Iran developed in a positive direction. It helped that Iran - aka Persia - was a real civilization with a long cultural history. It was (and remains) mostly secular and positively inclined to the West. Our problem is with the regime and the fundamentalist minority that supports it. I actually visited Iran in 1976 when the Shah was still in power. It was the most developed country in the region after Israel, with which it maintained good albeit quiet relations. At the time there were 10-20,000 Americans and a few hundred Israelis, all engaged in development, business or security work. So drop the nonsense about a "debacle" following our forcing the Shah on the Iranians. The Shah was also very good for Iran's minority populations - the Jews and Bahais especially. Both populations were specifically targeted by the Islamic regime after the Shah fell.
  • 9.
    SO WHAT! this is their money, and not the american tax payers money.
  • 8.
    We are talking about wealth that belongs to the Iranian people. Why should Iraninan citizens suffer because of Israeli arrogance?
  • 7.
    King Khamenei Has Castled With His Personal 95 Billion Dollar Fortune While Rohani The Rook By Hook Or By Crook, Mostly By Crook, Uses ..
    ... "Heroic Flexibility" moves up and down the board to confuse and confound the Regime's opponent and stave off defeat in this match. There's a lot of proud mocking of the West going on behind closed doors in Tehran as Caliphate crime pays!
  • 6.
    Whats a difference of 20 billion between mortal enemies?
  • 5.
    Not to worry, mate. The US insists it will make that up by immediately applying 20 billion in economic sanctions against Israel.
    See? It balances perfectly well on paper.
  • 4.
    Little by little and not so little every claim by Israel turns out to be true
  • Yeah! Like Israel's claims about Saddam's WMDs.
  • 3.
    What will happen if Netanyahu is proved right. Will the emotional vacuum be too much for Haretz' editorial staff? For the NY Times'?
    First the Benghazi screw-up leading to the death of Ambassador Stevens. Then Obamacare boondoggle. Now this?
  • If Israel wants war on Iran, all she had to to is demand that Benny M send her.
    QUIT demanding that the US put her kids in harms way, because your PM has no peacemaking skills. statesman, or diplomatic skills.
  • 2.
    This is why any agreement w/ the Palestinians should be attached to Results in Iran that satisfied Israel
  • huh? iran is being taken care of by UNSC..and so are you
    like it or not
  • Israel is never satisfied by anything.
  • So if Israel gets EVERYTHING it wants from Iran,
    it will make peace with the Palestinians and evacuate the West Bank. No chance! Israel's word in this situation (or almost any other situation) isn't worth crap.
  • 1.
    They miscalculated by 14 billion, 5 times the original estimate
    What's a few billions? happens in the best families.
  • We don't really know at this time what the cost is.
    What we know is the 20 billion figure is through unnamed Israeli "security sources", and for those that follow Amos Harel, it is understood he is very close to the Israeli establishment and reflects their sentiments. He is a good source of information, but should be viewed with a critical eye.