Jerusalem reacted furiously over reports Saturday that world powers were closing in on a long-sought pact that would see the lifting of sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office accused the six world powers negotiating with Iran of caving to the Islamic Republic’s demands, breaking even their own publicly stated “red-line” demands.
“With each passing day, the concessions from the powers to Iran are growing and growing,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office read. “Concessions over the inspections regime, concessions on how sanctions will be lifted, concessions on the amount of centrifuges, research and development of advanced centrifuges and more.”
The officials said the concessions would lead to a situation which would “pave the way for Iran for an arsenal of atomic weapons within a decade if it keeps to the deal,” and a bomb in a shorter time if Iran breaks its commitments.
The comments came hours after the Associated Press reported that powers and Iran had drawn up a draft document on the pace and timing of sanctions relief, advancing on one of the most contentious issues at their negotiations.
The development indicated the sides were moving closer to a comprehensive accord that would set a decade of restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits for the Iranians, as they race to complete a deal after extending a June 30 deadline to July 7.
Israel has loudly lobbied against the emerging deal, arguing it will let Iran continue to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapons program while lifting sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy. The US and much of the world fears Iran’s enrichment of uranium and other activity could be designed to make nuclear weapons; Iran says its program is meant only to generate power and for other peaceful purposes.
“As soon as sanctions are lifted, tens and hundreds of billions of dollars will flow into the Iranian economy. There will be no turning back,” the PMO officials said in the statement.
Officials from the US and other power have argued that sanctions will be able to be “snapped back” into place should Iran not comply with the deal.
Saying Iran was more dangerous that the Islamic State, the officials warned against the threat that would be posed if Tehran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, which Netanyahu has described as an existential threat.
The Iranian terror machine that operates worldwide will only be strengthened,” the officials said. “We must not let Iran acquire the most dangerous weapon in the world and fill its terror coffers with hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Western officials have described sanctions relief as one of the thorniest disagreements between Iran and the United States, which has led the campaign of international pressure against Iran’s economy.
Written by technical experts, the sanctions document revealed Saturday document still must be approved by senior officials of the seven nations at the table, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, expected to join Kerry and Zarif in Vienna this weekend for a push to meet the July 7 deadline.
Diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on this past week’s confidential negotiations, said the sanctions annex was completed this week by experts from Iran and the six world powers in the negotiations. They did not provide details of the agreement.
A senior US official did not dispute the diplomats’ account but said work remained to be done on “Annex II” before the issue could be described as finalized. And beyond a political agreement that was still in the draft stage, details also needed to be finalized on tough issues contained in four other appendices.
They include inspection guidelines, rules governing Iran’s research and development of advanced nuclear technology and the nuts and bolts of reducing the size and output of Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
As part of a deal, the Obama administration also wants Iran to fully cooperate with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of allegations that Tehran worked secretly on nuclear arms — something Iran vehemently denies. But chances of progress on that issue appear to be dimming.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told reporters on Saturday that “more work will be needed” to advance the probe, in a statement similar to previous ones from his agency, which has struggled for nearly a decade to resolve its concerns.