Kerry’s Iran statements ‘worrisome,’ minister says

Yuval Steinitz says Israel will not tolerate ‘surrender’ to Islamic Republic which would let it be a nuclear threshold state

Yuval Steinitz attends a session of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Knesset, October 16, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Yuval Steinitz attends a session of the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Knesset, October 16, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on Monday criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry for recently stating that the world might not insist on significantly curbing Iran’s nuclear breakout capability, which he said indicated a “surrender” to Tehran.

“Israel opposes any solution which leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state,” Steinitz said in an interview with Israel Radio.

“Kerry’s statements before the Senate on the matter of Iran and the current American objective were worrying, surprising, and unacceptable,” the minister said.

“We watch the negotiations with concern. We are not opposed to a diplomatic solution but we are against a solution which is entirely a surrender to Iran and which leaves it a threshold nuclear state,” Steinitz said.

Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Kerry said that Iran’s breakout time to build a nuclear weapon now stood at two months, and that American target figure of six to 12 months was “significantly more” than that, but he added that the United States would not necessarily settle for even the longer period. He added that a key component of the agreement would be rigorous monitoring.

His statements came as officials from the US and world powers met in Vienna to discuss a draft agreement on curbing Iranian nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Six months to 12 months is — I’m not saying that’s what we’d settle for, but even that is significantly more,” Kerry said. He noted that there was still a gap between having the material for a bomb and actually being able to build and deliver one, according to a Reuters account of the meeting.

“It’s just having one bomb’s worth, conceivably, of material, but without any necessary capacity to put it in anything, to deliver it, to have any mechanism to do so,” he said.

Israel has repeatedly insisted that Iran’s nuclear weapons capability be put in check as part of a deal between Tehran and world powers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Iran’s entire “military nuclear” capacity must be dismantled. “Zero enrichment, zero centrifuge, zero plutonium, none of this is necessary” for civilian use of nuclear energy, he said in February.

Israel, like the United States, has refused to rule out military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear arms.

Under an interim agreement reached last year that expires on July 20, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.

Analysts have said efforts at tracking the development of Iran’s weaponization program have been less successful because it can be easily concealed until an actual nuclear test.

Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful.

AFP, Adiv Sterman and Stuart Winer contributed to this report

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