Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned the world powers against letting Iran "push them around," toughening his stance in a last-ditch effort to head off a nuclear agreement between the world powers and Iran at talks slated to start Wednesday in Baghdad.
The prime minister restated his desired outcome from the talks between Iran and the six world powers: that Iran to stop all uranium enrichment, get rid of all enriched uranium already produced, and dismantle the underground enrichment facility at Fordo.
"Only that way can we be sure that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. That is Israel's stance. It has not changed, and it will not change," Netanyahu said at a Civil Service Commission ceremonyImplying that the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany were acting naively in the face of Iranian deceit, he said: "During the last few weeks I've heard those who would doubt Iranian intentions. They say that when Iran's leaders declare their desire to wipe Israel off the map, the comments actually mean something else in Farsi."
He added: "It would be interesting to hear what they have to say about comments made by the chief of staff of Iran's military just yesterday, that Iran must destroy Israel."
The prime minister said Iran's objective is to destroy Israel, and that the Islamic Republic is developing nuclear weapons toward that end. "Iran threatens Israel and world peace in general. The world's leading powers must be steadfast in the face of these evil intentions. They need not make concessions to Iran, but rather make unequivocal demands," he said.
While Netanyahu's comments were phrased diplomatically, those issuing from other senior Israeli officials who spoke on condition of anonymity were much sharper. "The West is already caving in to Iran," said one official.The prime minister's comments reflect a fear in Jerusalem that the talks between the six powers and Iran will result in an intermediate agreement that would not satisfy Israel on the one hand, and lead to the talks' continuation for many months on the other. In that event, an Israeli military option against Iranian nuclear facilities would be off the table.
Netanyahu's remarks contrasted sharply with the more optimistic statements coming from Washington, Paris, Berlin, and London that have raised the possibility of a breakthrough in talks with Iran.
The outline of a possible intermediate agreement would allow Iran to enrich uranium to the level of 20%, a potential transition stage to weapons-grade fuel. Such an agreement would also end enrichment activities at the fortified underground Fordo complex, and require Iran to give up the 100 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium it has now.
In return, the world powers would agree to suspend some of the sanctions that have been leveled against the Islamic Republic. An EU oil embargo, as well as U.S. sanctions against Iran's central bank, are set to go into effect July 1, but no new sanctions would be introduced. Iran would also receive a supply of nuclear fuel rods to power its research reactors.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned against complacency and naivete by the U.S. and other world powers. Barak said he told officials during a visit to Washington last week that Iran will try to present a false front of progress, meant to relieve some of the pressure from the world powers, before asking the West not to level any more sanctions.
"Unfortunately, despite the worldwide declarations, it is unclear to us that the world is willing to bring Iran to a crossroads, at which it will have to decide to continue its nuclear program or not," said Barak.
Meanwhile, talks between UN nuclear chief Yukiya Amano concluded on Monday without any breakthroughs on supervision of Iran's nuclear facilities, which are suspected of being used to produce nuclear weapons. Amano said the talks "were effective and held in a 'good atmosphere,' and they will have a positive impact on negotiations between Iran and [the six powers]," but did not specify what agreements, if any, were made.