New sanctions will improve chance of Iran deal, Israel says

Senior diplomatic official argues that only a ‘crisis in the talks’ will force Tehran to compromise on nuclear program

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)

A crisis in the current nuclear negotiations between six world powers and Iran, generated by new sanctions, could lead to their breakdown and ultimately to a renewed round of negotiations with better results, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Monday.

He added that the talks would likely not yield an agreement by their March 31 deadline, and that without new sanctions they would likely not yield a deal at all.

New sanctions and an ensuing “crisis in talks can certainly sharpen dilemmas for Iran and can lead to the achievement of an agreement on better terms,” the senior official told diplomatic correspondents during a briefing in Jerusalem. “The combination of political pressure and economic levers increases the chances of better results in the negotiations.”

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last week that additional sanctions on his country would likely lead Iran to suspend the talks indefinitely.

But the senior Israeli official claimed said that even without new sanctions, there would be no agreement.

“Putting pressure on Iran doesn’t guarantee they reach a [favorable] agreement, but the absence of pressure will ensure there won’t be an agreement” ever, he said.

Currently, it seems that the negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the united Nations Security Council and Germany – the so-called P5+1 – won’t be resolved by the deadline the sides have set for themselves, the senior official said, citing Tehran’s apparent unwillingness to compromise.

“At this stage, much depends on the difficult decisions that Iran will need to make,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Significant gaps still remain between Iran and the world powers. It’s difficult to bridge Iran’s demand to have all sanctions removed, among other important elements.

“There is currently no profound change in Iran regarding the concessions that could lead them to an agreement. We do not see a strategic decision and concessions on the part of [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei.”

Israel has long been pushing for Washington to impose new sanctions on Iran in order to ensure a deal that will eliminate entirely Tehran’s uranium enrichment capability and prevent it from achieving a breakout nuclear weapons capacity.

Several legislative initiatives in the US Congress are aiming to provide additional sanctions as a means of pressuring Tehran; however, US President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address last week that he would veto the bills.

The sharp disagreement between the Israeli and American administrations over the right approach to the Iran talks is at the backdrop of a spat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama over Netanyahu’s intention to address Congress in March and rally US lawmakers to vote in favor of more sanctions.

The White House said that the visit, whose details were worked out between Netanyahu and the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, was not coordinated with the Obama administration, in a breach of diplomatic protocol.

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