Netanyahu and AIPAC: The difference is the word ‘suspend’

Israel’s PM and the main pro-Israel lobby group in the US see eye-to-eye on the Iran issue, almost

JTA — AIPAC just put out a tough memo on Iran, as the Obama administration begins its engagement with Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president.

Its terms are clear as day: No sanctions relief until Iran suspends enrichment — and if it does not suspend enrichment, sanctions should be intensified. And maintain a credible military threat.

Make no mistake, this is a tough memo. And it echoes the tough line of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Echoes, but does not mimic. The memo exposes a telling difference between the premier pro-Israel lobby and Netanyahu, encapsulated in the word “suspend.”

AIPAC has so far not opposed allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium at civilian levels as part of a final-status deal — this is notable because, reportedly, the Obama administration and other Western powers would accept such a deal.

Netanyahu explicitly opposes such a deal, in part because he maintains that even enriching at 3.5 percent, allowing Iran to keep its centrifuges, would keep it close to weapons breakout capacity, which is 90 percent.

“Suspend” appears four times in the AIPAC document, although Netanyahu has repeatedly made clear he wants Iran to end its nuclear enrichment, for good. He said so in his speech Sunday at Bar-Ilan University:

“The international community should take the following position vis-à-vis Iran — we are ready to reach a diplomatic resolution, but only one that dismantles Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons. In other words, no centrifuges or enriched uranium, no plutonium reactor.”

Netanyahu said it, too, in the very speech last week, to the UN General Assembly, that AIPAC quotes to reinforce its demand that Iran suspend its nuclear activity. Here’s what AIPAC quotes:

“Keep up the sanctions. If Iran advances its nuclear weapons program during negotiations, strengthen the sanctions.”

And here’s what Netanyahu said, immediately prior to the passage that AIPAC quotes:

“There are those who would readily agree to leave Iran with a residual capability to enrich uranium. I advise them to pay close attention to what Rohani said in his speech to Iran’s supreme cultural revolution — Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council. This was published in 2005. I quote. This is what he said:

“‘A county that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons.’ Precisely. This is why Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be fully and veritably dismantled. And this is why the pressure on Iran must continue.”

“Suspend,” notably, echoes the language of one of AIPAC’s closest Capitol Hill allies, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

The memo’s full text (it does not appear yet on AIPAC’s website):

Iran Must Suspend Nuclear Activities
for Diplomacy to Succeed

The United States and its partners are on the verge of renewing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. To provide the necessary time and space for discussions, Tehran must suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities. Iran’s nuclear activities have brought it so close to a nuclear weapons capability that time for successful negotiations will run out if the regime continues on its present course. To avoid any misunderstanding in Tehran, America must clearly signal that it will consider no easing of sanctions until Iran has veritably suspended its nuclear program. If Iran’s nuclear activities continue, the United States and the international community should escalate sanctions and reinforce President Obama’s message that a credible military option is on the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Despite US diplomatic outreach, Iran’s nuclear activities are continuing with no end in sight.

• Despite a landmark September 26 phone call between President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the regime has provided no indication that Tehran plans to halt its nuclear activities.

• In his September 24 speech to the United Nations, Rouhani made clear that Tehran would not halt its enrichment program and that international “acceptance of and respect for the implementation of the right to enrichment” constitute a key Iranian objective. Indeed, in recent months, Iran’s race to the bomb has continued apace:

* In the months since Rouhani’s election, Iran sped up delivery of a new advanced model of centrifuges several times more efficient than its predecessor, and has installed more than 500 of them at Natanz.

* Iran continues to produce and stockpile uranium enriched to the 20-percent level.

* Iran continues to develop the heavy-water reactor under construction in Arak.

* Iran continues to deny international inspectors access to the Parchin military facility, where nuclear explosive testing is believed to have occurred.

* At the current rate of installation of centrifuges, Iran is rapidly approaching the break-out ability to enrich uranium from 3.5 percent to bomb-grade in weeks, not months.

• Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — the ultimate decision-maker on Iran’s nuclear program — has appointed Ali Shamkhani, a founder of the program and firm opponent of its suspension, as the new head of the country’s National Security Council.

Actions, not words, should determine any US decision to provide sanctions relief.

• Washington should make clear that Iran’s continuation of its nuclear program — no matter how congenial its rhetoric — will result in stepped-up sanctions, and that suspending its enrichment activities is the essential first step for successful diplomacy.

• President Obama on September 30 said that Iran must perform “actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.”

• In his October 1 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to “keep up the sanctions. If Iran advances its nuclear weapons program during negotiations, strengthen the sanctions.”

Absent verified Iranian action, sanctions must be increased.

• In July, the House overwhelmingly passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013 (H.R. 850) to increase sanctions on Iran. The Senate must now act.

• America must continue efforts to persuade oil-importing nations to dramatically reduce their purchases of oil from Iran. Violators of US law must face consequences, including sanctions on financial institutions, energy companies and shipping firms that facilitate oil purchases.

• Financial institutions and individuals conducting transactions with or providing services to the Central Bank of Iran or other sanctioned banks must be identified and sanctioned.

• Major remaining sectors of the Iranian economy should be subject to sanctions.

• In conjunction with sanctions, the United States must continue to demonstrate a credible military threat in order to enhance prospects for diplomacy.

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