‘US anxious to sign deal with Tehran to avoid military strike’

Senior Israel official reportedly says Geneva proposal is ‘very bad,’ would quickly lead to Iran becoming threshold state

Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan)
Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan)

A senior Israeli official said Sunday that the US was in a rush to reach an agreement with Iran over its controversial nuclear program because it feared that a military option would be the only alternative left if a deal failed to materialize.

“The Americans are anxious to sign a bad deal [with Tehran] because they are worried the only alternative left — without a deal — would be a military strike,” the official was quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth as saying Sunday.

“The deal is very bad. There’s no doubt that if they [the world powers and Iran] sign now, Iran would become a [nuclear] threshold state [a state that can quickly assemble a nuclear weapon] and there would be no deal under which that would prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear program,” the official added.

The comments came after a weekend of marathon negotiations between the P5+1 world powers and Iran in Geneva, which ended Saturday night without a much-expected deal on Tehran’s nuclear program. Talks are due to resume November 20.

The six powers were considering a gradual rollback of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. In exchange, they demanded initial curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, including a cap on uranium enrichment to a level that cannot be turned quickly to weapons use.

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued his campaign against the deal and his war of words with US Secretary John Kerry, this time at the Jewish Federations’ General Assembly in Jerusalem. Netanyahu had called the proposal in Geneva a “historic mistake” on Friday and urged Kerry not to sign it.

“What is being offered now, and I’m continuously updated in detail,” he said — it was an allusion to Kerry’s assertion earlier in the day that Netanyahu may not be aware of the terms of the proposed deal — “What is being proposed now is a deal in which Iran retains all” of its uranium enrichment capacity.

“Not one centrifuge is dismantled,” he added, “not one.”

Netanyahu pointed out that such conditions didn’t meet any of the UN resolutions and would give Iran the opportunity to hide its centrifuges and use them to break out toward a nuclear weapon whenever they so chose.

Earlier Sunday, in the wake of a last-minute breakdown in negotiations, Kerry questioned whether the prime minister really knew what he was so furiously objecting to over the weekend.

“I’m not sure that the prime minister, who I have great respect for, knows exactly what the amount or the terms are going to be because we haven’t arrived at them all yet,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That’s what we’re negotiating. It is not a partial deal. Let me make that crystal clear as I have to the prime minister directly. It is a first step in an effort that will lock the program in where it is today, in fact set it back, while one negotiates the full deal.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the military option vis-a-vis Iran remained on the table and vowed to defend the state of Israel and the security of its citizens from what he perceives to be an existential threat should Iran acquire the bomb.

Iran, which denies any interest in nuclear weapons, currently runs more than 10,000 centrifuges that have created tons of fuel-grade material that can be further enriched to arm nuclear warheads. It also has nearly 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be turned into weapons much more quickly. Experts say 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of that 20 percent-enriched uranium are needed to produce a single warhead.

Any agreement would be a breakthrough after nearly a decade of mostly inconclusive talks, but would only be the start of a long process to reduce Iran’s potential ability to produce nuclear arms, with no guarantee of ultimate success.

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