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Thursday, January 22, 2015

No, the Mossad didn't say new Iran sanctions are a bad thing

@JoshRogin and @EliLake report on disagreements between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Mossad about the impact of new US sanctions on Iran. Many are taking the report as a reason (excuse?) to vote against the Kirk-Menendez bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran. But notice what's left unsaid.
Already, the Barack Obama administration and some leading Republican senators are using the Israeli internal disagreement to undermine support for the bill, authored by Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez, which would enact new sanctions if current negotiations falter.
Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee  -- supported by Republican Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain -- is pushing for his own legislation on the Iran nuclear deal, which doesn't contain sanctions but would require that the Senate vote on any pact that is agreed upon in Geneva. The White House is opposed to both the Kirk-Menendez bill and the Corker bill; it doesn't want Congress to meddle at all in the delicate multilateral diplomacy with Iran.
Israeli intelligence officials have been briefing both Obama administration officials and visiting U.S. senators about their concerns on the Kirk-Menendez bill, which would increase sanctions on Iran only if the Iranian government can't strike a deal with the so-called P5+1 countries by a June 30 deadline or fails to live up to its commitments. Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister’s office has been supporting the Kirk-Menendez bill, as does the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, ahead of what will be a major foreign policy confrontation between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government in coming weeks.
Evidence of the Israeli rift surfaced Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry said that an unnamed Israeli intelligence official had said the new sanctions bill would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.” But an initial warning from Israeli Mossad leaders was also delivered last week in Israel to a Congressional delegation -- including Corker, Graham, McCain and fellow Republican John Barrasso; Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly and Tim Kaine; and independent Angus King -- according to lawmakers who were present and staff members who were briefed on the exchange. When Menendez (who was not on the trip) heard about the briefing, he quickly phoned Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer to seek clarification.
Barrasso told us Tuesday that different parts of the Israeli government told the delegation different things. “We met with a number of government officials from many different parts of the government. There’s not a uniform view there,” he said.
In a Wednesday morning hearing on Iran at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker talked about the Israel visit and said that his bill (not the Kirk-Menendez bill) was acceptable to all the Israeli officials they spoke with. “Some of us were in Israel this weekend over this very same issue. We have heard no one, no one, say that if Congress were to weigh in on the final agreement it would in any way destabilize the negotiations,” Corker said.
Note that the Mossad is not saying 'don't pass new sanctions.'  It's saying 'if you do pass new sanctions, Iran is likely to walk away from the talks. If one accepts the proposition that Iran is using the talks as cover to continue its nuclear weapons development program, Iran walking away from the talks would probably not be such a bad thing.

Moreover, as Rogin and Lake admit, no one really knows for sure what Iran would do if the Kirk-Menendez bill is passed. If Iran walks away from the talks, it risks isolating itself in the international community. While Russia and China might prevent the Security Council from acting against Iran, if Iran is isolated, it is less likely that Israel - for example - would be inhibited from acting. After all, the West would no longer be able to argue that we have to give negotiations a chance. There would be no negotiations.

Iran's argument that new sanctions would violate the 'spirit of the negotiations' ought to fall on deaf ears. Iran has violated any spirit that ever existed.

Saying that passing Kirk-Menendez might cause Iran to walk away from the talks is a no-brainer. But it also might not. And even if it did cause Iran to walk away, that might not be such a bad outcome.

Read the whole thing.

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