Netanyahu Outlined Impossible Iran Deal, U.S. Official Says

Prime minister's demands would be unacceptable not only to Iran, but also to other world powers involved in the nuclear negotiations, the senior official tells Haaretz.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015.
Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. President Barack Obama didn’t watch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s televised speech to Congress on Tuesday, though he read the transcript and was briefed on it afterward by one of his aides. A senior U.S. official said the White House had no contact with Netanyahu or his staff during the prime minister's visit to Washington.

Speaking before a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu warned of the against the deal being negotiated between world powers and Iran, saying it would not block Iran's way to obtain nuclear weapons, but pave way to a nuclear bomb.

Contrary to the expectations raised in briefings by Netanyahu’s staff before the speech, he revealed no classified details about the emerging agreement with Iran. American officials had publicly warned him not to divulge such information, “but we don’t know if our public warnings are the reason” why he didn’t, the official said.

The White House believes Netanyahu not only failed to present an alternative to the emerging agreement, but also presented unrealistic demands for what he would deem a better agreement.

“In his speech, Netanyahu outlined a nuclear agreement that will never happen,” the senior official said. “We agree with what he said about Iranian involvement in terror and the other negative things Iran does, but the negotiations we’re conducting are meant to prevent them from getting a nuclear bomb, and we need to focus on that.”

Netanyahu’s demand that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure be completely dismantled, the official continued, would be unacceptable not only to Iran, but also to the other countries involved in the talks – Germany, Britain France, Russia and China.

Moreover, he said, Netanyahu’s demand for additional sanctions on Iran could backfire. “If we go with new sanctions, would the world support this? What’s liable to happen is that Iran will abandon the negotiations, begin installing thousands of new centrifuges, activate the reactor in Arak and quickly become a nuclear threshold state. We’re proposing an agreement that will halt Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade.”

Even after the agreement lapses, Iran won’t be free to do whatever it pleases, he added, because if it races for the bomb, “we’ll still be able to impose new sanctions and we’ll still be able to launch a ground operation. We won’t lose any of our options.”

Under any agreement, Iran will have to sign the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows surprise inspections, he noted. This will remain in force even after the agreement ends, so “even in another decade, we’ll be able to continue seeing what’s happening in Iran’s nuclear program, and then we can decide what we’re willing to accept and what we aren’t. The agreement doesn’t give Iran a blank check to develop nuclear weapons capabilities in another 10-15 years.”

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