Netanyahu: Geneva deal with Iran could lead to war

Upping his rhetoric in current spat with Washington, PM insists there is ‘no reason to submit to Iranian diktats’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset during the opening of the winter session, on October 14, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset during the opening of the winter session, on October 14, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The currently discussed deal between six world powers and Iran could lead to war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, intensifying his campaign against a possible interim agreement on Tehran’s rogue nuclear program.

“There are not just two possibilities on the Iranian issue: A bad deal — or war. This is incorrect. There is a third possibility — and that is continuing the pressure of sanctions,” Netanyahu said in the Knesset. “I would even say that a bad deal is liable to lead to the second, undesired, result.”

On Tuesday, the White House also warned of the dangers of war with Iran — should Congress vote for new sanctions on Iran.

Over the weekend in Geneva, the US, Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany — the so-called P5+1 — came close to signing an interim agreement with Iran that would offer limited sanctions relief in exchange for halting uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, while enrichment to the level of 3.5% would continue. US officials say the currently discussed deal would be an interim agreement only, intended to suspend Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons capability for six months while a permanent arrangement is negotiated.

The world powers and Iran are scheduled to meet again on November 20 in Geneva to resume talks.

“There is no reason to submit to Iranian diktats; neither is there any reason to be hasty,” Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum. “Iran is under very harsh economic pressure and the advantage is with those applying the pressure. It is possible to reach a good deal to dismantle Iran’s military nuclear capability. This cannot be achieved by the proposal now being discussed in Geneva. That proposal would make a gaping hole… through which the air could escape from the pressure of the sanctions.”

In the deal currently being discussed, “very little” is being demanded of Iran; the regime would not have to dismantle any centrifuges and would not have to close its underground facilities, the prime minister said. “This is not necessary because it is possible to continue the pressure.”

Netanyahu has been vehemently opposed to the possible interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran since news of the possible breakthrough emerged Thursday, leading to a rare public disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington.

Comments Netanyahu made last Thursday during a meeting with visiting members of the US Congress reveal that he was surprised to learn the details of the planned deal. “I’m absolutely stunned. Such a monumental mistake,” Netanyahu said. “If the news that I’m receiving of the impeding proposal by the P5+1 is true, then I’m absolutely stunned.”

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington was opposed to new sanctions on Iran. Instead, the deal on the table would include a “temporary pause in sanctions.”

“We are not taking away sanctions. We are not rolling them back,” she said.

US officials have reiterated that the US remains committed to Israel’s security and to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “We do care deeply about the security of Israel,” Psaki said. “But we have a responsibility to pursue the diplomatic path, to see if that is — if we can resolve this through diplomacy. Diplomacy should be the first option.”

Also on Tuesday, the White House warned the Senate against increasing sanctions against Tehran, saying such a move could cause the breakdown of talks and ultimately lead to war. “The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The alternative is military action.”

Later Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to defend the administration’s stance during a meeting with lawmakers.

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