Top Obama adviser dismisses idea that better Iran deal is possible

Hours after Israel sets out demands, Ben Rhodes tells Israeli TV the framework meets US ‘core objectives,’ enables ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (Photo credit: screenshot/CNN)
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes (Photo credit: screenshot/CNN)

Hours after Israel listed demands for improvements to the deal with Iran that would render it more acceptable, a top adviser to President Barack Obama made clear that the final agreement would not be markedly more stringent than the framework agreed in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 news, Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, dismissed the notion — relentlessly asserted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that a better deal was attainable.

The deal as it now stands meets the US’s “core objectives,” he said to Channel 2.

“We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations,” he echoed, in a second interview, to Channel 10.

“We weren’t going to take a bad deal,” Rhodes told Channel 2. The US had stood firm, and the negotiations had twice been extended, he said, because “the terms that were on the table were not good enough for us.” He said the US “held out” for the deal that was reached last Thursday, and that it met the US’s “core objectives.”

Were the US now to walk away from the table, he added, its ability to rally the world “could be compromised.”

Rhodes denied that the US was naive in its dealings with Iran, which has relentlessly called for the destruction of America and Israel, saying: “We don’t think they’re going to become the local nice guy in any way.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon speaks to Channel 2 on Friday, August 29, 2014. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Watching the interview in the Channel 2 studio, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded dryly: “It’s not that we don’t believe the White House. We don’t believe the Iranians.” Ya’alon called the deal “a historic mistake.”

In his second interview, on Channel 10, Rhodes also claimed the new arrangements ensure “anytime, anywhere” inspections of any and every Iranian facility — contradicting complaints by Israel that no such provision is guaranteed.

Asked directly if the IAEA would have anytime, anywhere access, Rhodes said, “Yes, if we see something that we want to inspect.”

“In the first place we will have anytime, anywhere access [to] the nuclear facilities,” he said, referring to “the whole supply chain.”

And, he added, “if there is a suspicious site, for instance somewhere in a military base in Iran, and we want to seek access to that, we will be able to go to the IAEA and get that inspection because of the additional protocol of the IAEA that Iran will be joining and some of the additional transparency and inspections measures that are in the deal.”

The White House official indicated that the US and its P5+1 allies have not yet decided how to respond in the event of Iran violating the deal — a requirement demanded by many experts including former Obama adviser Dennis Ross who fear that Iran will be able to break out to the bomb before the international community decides on a response.

“If they break the deal we’ll know very quickly, and then we’ll be able make decisions about what to do,” Rhodes told Channel 2. The Obama adviser indicated that all options — including a military strike — are not off the table in the event Iran violates the deal, quickly adding that the US hopes Iran will abide by the agreement, rendering the military option unnecessary.

He said that Iran would never get the bomb, and would be prevented from doing so even after the time-limited aspects of the new deal expire. “Iran will never be permitted to build a nuclear weapon.”

Rhodes acknowledged that Obama and Netanyahu have a “substantive policy difference as it relates to Iran.” Nonetheless, he said, the prime minister would be invited to the White House once a new Israeli government was in place. “Absolutely, we’d expect that once there’s an Israeli government formed, there’d certainly be occasion for the two of them to meet in Washington,” he said.

Rhodes said the US commitment to Israel is “iron-clad.” In the long-term, he said, the US would provide the assistance needed to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.

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