US envoy to Israel: Military option still on the table

US envoy to Israel: Military option still on the table

Ambassador Dan Shapiro says Iran knows if it doesn't honor commitments in nuclear deal, all sanctions and pressure will come back

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro speaks at the Jewish Federations' General Assembly (GA) in Jerusalem on November 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro speaks at the Jewish Federations' General Assembly (GA) in Jerusalem on November 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Sunday night that the interim six-month agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program signed in Geneva will not rely just on trust but will be enforced with stringent monitoring efforts, backed up by the possibility of a military option if Tehran doesn’t comply with the terms.

“We are going to heavily verify and inspect and monitor these undertakings to make sure Iran keeps its commitments,” Shapiro said in an interview with Channel 2 broadcast on Sunday. “If it doesn’t keep its commitments, all the sanctions will be returned… Additional sanctions and other options, including the military option, are a possibility.”

The ambassador explained that there was to be only “limited sanctions relief,” while most of the measures would be kept in place to continue the pressure on Iran.

“Iran will know that if they don’t meet their commitments and if they don’t reach a final agreement, all that pressure will return and we will retain all our other options,” he continued. “But we will use those six months to try to achieve a peaceful resolution that ensures Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Shapiro admitted that the US and Israel had a “tactical disagreement” on whether or not an interim agreement was the best way to proceed, but reiterated that Washington and Jerusalem agree on the overall goals.

“We don’t always agree on everything, even though we agree on the big things and we agree on the big strategic questions,” he said, adding that over the next six months the US will continue to work closely with Israel as part of its commitment to Israel’s security and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“We agree with Israel 100 percent that Iran with nuclear weapons is too dangerous to contemplate,” he said.

When challenged with the failure of negotiations to prevent North Korea from attaining nuclear weapons capability, Shapiro responded that Iran is a very different situation.

“We are not relying on trusting the government of Iran,” he said. “So it’s not relying on goodwill or trust, it is verifying that commitments are being kept.”

The US, Shapiro explained, believes that negotiations give the best chance, in a peaceful and sustainable way, to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Nonetheless, he repeated, the military option is still on the table.

“President [Barack Obama] will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Shapiro echoed comments made earlier by both Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry, aimed at assuaging concerns expressed by Israel and Arab allies in the region about the deal.

Shortly after the deal was finalized, Obama declared it an “important first step” that cuts off the Islamic Republic’s most likely path toward a bomb.

“These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon,” Obama said during remarks from the White House. “If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure,” he added.

Kerry suggested in an interview with ABC News Sunday that the diplomatic approach would give legitimacy to a possible military solution, should the need to use force arise.

“We will stand by Israel 100 percent… We will show that this particular approach has the ability to be able to garner greater, broader international support for whether or not Iran is, in fact, following through on its commitments or not,” Kerry said. “If you, ultimately, have to hold them accountable because they’re not doing it, you have to be able to show that you’ve gone through all of the diplomatic avenues available before considering other alternatives.”

Iran and world powers signed an agreement early Sunday morning that offered limited sanctions relief on Iran in return for its commitment to scale back its uranium-enrichment process and stockpiles to non-weapons grade levels as well as not to use an under-construction heavy-water facility in Arak to produce plutonium that can be used for an atomic bomb.

The countries involved in the negotiations — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — all hailed the deal as a positive step forward, while Israel rejected the agreement as “a historic mistake.”

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