The international effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons program will collapse unless economic sanctions remain in place, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday, following a meeting at the Pentagon with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
“Any easing of sanctions would cause a collapse” in the efforts to stop Iran, Ya’alon said.
There are “more than a few interested parties” who would like to enter into economic agreements with the Iranians, he noted. This “would greatly reduce the economic pressure” the country faces and also “enable them to continue to enrich uranium,” he warned.
“This must be avoided. We can’t fall into the trap of easing sanctions as confidence-building measures before the preconditions we have set for Iran are agreed upon,” Ya’alon said.
Hagel, repeating the term President Barack Obama had used at his meeting last week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the Americans are “clear-eyed” about Iran. Although the US “intends to test the prospect for a diplomatic solution” — new talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran are to start in Geneva next week — the administration “will not waver from our firm policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he said, according to a US Department of Defense press release.
Ya’alon said the “credible” threat of US military action against Syria had prompted President Bashar Assad’s decision to allow an international team to inspect and destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile. Assad was confronted with a “credible military threat and was faced with the dilemma of [choosing between] continued survival or waiving the chemical weapons,” he noted, underlining Israel’s argument that Iran, too, must face a combination of economic pressure and a credible military threat if it is to be stopped short of military intervention.
Assad has said he decided to give up the chemical weapons, but their destruction must be closely monitored to ensure that it is complete, Ya’alon noted.
Hagel said the international agreement to destroy the weapons was “a step in the right direction” but warned that much work remained to be done.
Tuesday’s was the third meeting between Ya’alon and Hagel within the last six months, and Hagel praised the “continued unprecedented levels of security cooperation between the United States and Israel, and pledged to remain in close touch,” according to the Defense Department.
The two leaders also discussed US efforts to “increase Israel’s qualitative military edge with advanced capabilities,” an initiative announced during Hagel’s visit to Israel earlier this year.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran was preparing a package of proposals to be brought before world powers next week in Geneva, including limiting its centrifuges and uranium enrichment in exchange for eased sanctions.