US caving to Iranians on nuke deal, Israeli official warns

Sides are headed to ‘bad agreement’ that allows for more enrichment, unnamed senior source says

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L), European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are photographed as they participate in a trilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2014. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / CAROLYN KASTER)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L), European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are photographed as they participate in a trilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, on October 15, 2014. (Photo credit: AFP/ POOL / CAROLYN KASTER)

A deal between the US and Iran, or an extension of talks on that contentious issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, are both terrible options that would further destabilize the Middle East and allow the Islamic Republic to develop atomic weapons with relative ease, a senior Israeli official said Sunday.

The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, asserted that throughout the nuclear negotiations, the US had repeatedly conceded to Iranian demands, while Iran itself had not budged from its initial positions.

“It would be a bad agreement,” the official told The Times of Israel. “The number of centrifuges the US agreed to [allow Iran to operate] is rising. Already, there are talks about 5,000 centrifuges, while it is clear that the Iranians do not need that many for civilian purposes.”

The official asserted the Iran had clearly conducted nuclear experiments in its covert Parchin military facility, which the Iranian government had closed off to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency despite repeated requests by the UN watchdog to investigate the site.

On Friday, the head of the IAEA was quoted saying Iran had not complied with its obligations to provide information on “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program, the New York Times reported.

Yukiya Amano added that despite the fact that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had promised to address the issue, talks between the agency and Tehran have not progressed.

Other weapons programs, such as the Iranian long-range missile project, were not even up for negotiation, the official said.

The official maintained that the US was keen to mend ties with the Islamic Republic in order to help solve other regional issues.

“The US government sees Iran as a pivot toward addressing the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen,” the official said, explaining that the regime was deeply involved in the feuds raging in those countries.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility in April (photo credit: Institute for Science and International Security/AP)
Satellite image of the Parchin facility from April 2012 (photo credit: AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

“The Iranian problem is currently reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin film, the one where he sends his son to break windows so he can come and fix them,” the official said, referring to the 1921 movie “The Kid.”

The official did not elaborate on Israel’s intentions or whether the government planned to thwart Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said recently he was lobbying the US on  a nuclear deal “so there won’t be a catastrophe,” according to a recording published by Israel’s Army Radio Sunday.

On Thursday, US National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said officials from the US and Israel had pledged “unprecedented coordination” on the issue.

The US has indicated readiness for an agreement that leaves Iran with some of its uranium enrichment capabilities, but Israel has lobbied against any deal leaving it with the ability to enrich.

The differing positions are one of the key points of ongoing friction between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

Iran and the P5+1 have until November 24 to negotiate a deal or agree to extend talks.

However, the unnamed official said postponing talks with Iran would offer the regime time to advance its nuclear project.

“We’re looking into the situation, looking at where Iran is now and at where the red line had been drawn in the past — 240 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent,” he said.

“They have been pulled back in that sense, but they are now a year away from building a bomb, not a decade, and we fear that they will take advantage of the international community’s sanction easement to revive the economy. In such a case, the West would really have no stick with which to threaten Iran.”

On Friday, a recording of White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes surfaced in which he was heard saying that reaching a nuclear deal with Iran is a top priority for Washington and would be a major foreign policy achievement for US President Barack Obama.

The recording, published by the Washington Free Beacon, came as Secretary of State John Kerry said gaps between Iran and the US had narrowed ahead of the deadline.

“We’re closer than we were a week ago or 10 weeks ago,” Kerry said in an interview Friday.

“But we’re still with big gaps.”

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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