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Posts tagged ‘Iran’s nuclear program’

Israeli Defense Minister: Israel Can’t Rely on Obama on Iran.


Israel cannot depend on the United States to lead any action against Iran’s nuclear program and can only rely on itself, the country’s defense minister said in remarks published Tuesday.

The comments by Moshe Yaalon came as world powers and Iran were about to start a new round of talks over Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The West fears the program could be used to make a nuclear weapon and seeks to scale it back. Tehran denies the program has a military dimension and insists it is for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation. If a deal with world powers is reached, sanctions imposed on Iran over the nuclear program could be lifted.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

Israel has criticized the ongoing talks with Tehran, saying an interim nuclear deal, struck last November, has left Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact while giving it relief from some economic sanctions.

At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, has taken a back stage to the talks despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence it remains on the table.

Yaalon’s remarks seemed to underscore that insistence.

“We thought that the one who needs to lead the campaign against Iran is the U.S.,” Yaalon was quoted by the daily Haaretz as saying during a lecture at Tel Aviv University on Monday.

Instead, Yaalon said, the U.S. began negotiations with Iran and Iran gained the upper hand in the talks.

“If we wished others would do the work for us, it wouldn’t be done soon, and therefore in this matter, we have to behave as if we can only rely on ourselves,” Yaalon said.

Yaalon’s office confirmed his remarks but refused to comment whether he was advocating an Israeli strike on Iran. Netanyahu’s office also declined to comment.

Yaalon criticized the West, saying its leaders prefer to avoid confrontation with Iran. As for the U.S., the defense minister alleged American influence is waning in other parts of the world, such as Ukraine over the crisis there.

“Weakness certainly does not pay in the world,” he said. “No one can replace the U.S. as the world’s policeman. I hope the U.S. will come to its senses.”

Yaalon has made controversial comments about Washington in the past. In January, he was quoted as saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was “obsessive” and “messianic” over his Mideast peace efforts. The comments triggered an angry response from the U.S., Israel’s most important ally.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

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Netanyahu Rouses Supporters as Obama Presses for Compromise.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rally thousands of his country’s most passionate U.S. advocates today after President Barack Obama coaxed him at the White House to compromise with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu addresses the annual Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as a deadline looms on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s nine-month Middle East peace campaign. Kerry is pressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu to accept by April 29 a structure that would guide further negotiations.

At yesterday’s meeting in the Oval Office, Netanyahu, 64, told Obama he will “stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Obama, 52, who visited Netanyahu and Abbas on a Middle East tour a year ago, is inserting himself more directly into the peace talks as Kerry hits resistance from both sides. Abbas has been invited for his own White House meeting March 17. A week later, Obama is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, which has leverage over the Palestinians.

“It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said. “But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides.”

Netanyahu’s Response

Netanyahu responded that “Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not.”

Kerry, who attended the White House meeting, later spoke at the AIPAC conference, where he pledged U.S. military expertise and technology to protect Israel against any threats.

“We can deliver to Israel the security that Israel needs to make peace,” Kerry said.

If Kerry’s peace effort fails, it won’t be “the end of the world,” Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said yesterday in a speech at Tel Aviv University, broadcast on Israel Radio. Shaath said that talks could continue with Kerry’s framework agreement if Israel agrees to free more Palestinian prisoners and freeze building in settlements.

‘Seize the Moment’

Obama said in a Feb. 27 interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg that time is running out to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He urged Netanyahu to “seize the moment.”

If Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said. “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

For Israel, the more pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program, which was the other topic dominating their discussion. The U.S. and five other world powers have a six-month agreement with Iran, to end in July, during which the Islamic Republic is supposed to freeze some of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

“Iran calls openly for Israel’s destruction, so I’m sure you’ll appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to achieve that goal,” Netanyahu said to reporters at the White House during his appearance with Obama.

Israel has expressed skepticism about the negotiations, and warned against the U.S. getting played by the Iranians. Netanyahu may have limited ability to enlist the U.S. Congress in keeping pressure on Iran.

A senior Palestinian official said differences with Israel have widened in the latest round of peace talks.

Israeli Skepticism

“It isn’t narrowing,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, who negotiated on behalf of Abbas until November, said Feb. 27 at his office in Ramallah.

Obama’s decision to engage in the peace process a year after he delegated the work to Kerry suggests both that Kerry got further than the White House initially predicted in restarting peace talks and that the top U.S. diplomat has run into enough obstacles that his April deadline may be in trouble.

“This framework is more than a speed bump, it is a critical piece,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Why not strategically deploy the president?”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has blocked efforts by some lawmakers to bring new sanctions legislation up for consideration, and Obama has said he would veto any such measure should it get through Congress.

Ahead of the policy conference at AIPAC, the biggest pro- Israel lobbying group, Senate Republicans on Feb. 26 announced a new effort to try to force votes on new sanctions legislation by attaching language to popular legislation for veterans’ benefits. While AIPAC earlier called for new sanctions, it has backed away from that position.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

AP Poll: Voters Give Obama Low Marks for Iran Deal.


A majority of Americans support an agreement by the U.S. and five other world powers to limit Iran’s disputed nuclear program, but fewer believe it will keep the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll gave President Barack Obama lower marks for his dealings with Iran.

The five-day survey, conducted Jan. 17-21, was ongoing as the interim agreement went into effect. It calls for Iran to cap uranium enrichment at a level far below what’s necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In exchange, world powers agreed to ease international sanctions by an estimated $7 billion to give some short-term relief to Iran’s crippled economy.

The temporary compromise is set to expire in July, giving negotiators six months to work on a plan to permanently prevent Iran’s nuclear program from becoming a threat.

The poll indicated that 60 percent of American adults approve of the six-month agreement.

But fewer than half — 47 percent — believe it might work.

“From a diplomatic standpoint, it would be great to be able to negotiate and come up with a solution that would eliminate the chance for nuclear weapons for Iran,” respondent Lance Hughey, 40, a lawyer from LaCrosse, Wis., said Monday.

However, “Iran is a difficult country to trust,” said Hughey, who identified himself as an independent voter with slightly Republican leanings. “And the leadership that we see out of D.C., the way things have been conducted with Syria … I don’t believe (the president) has the leadership skills to deal with Iran.”

The poll concluded that overall, 42 percent approve of how Obama handles Iran — about the same as 44 percent in December. Fewer strongly approve of his performance, 25 percent now compared with 30 percent in December.

Obama is the first U.S. president to talk directly with an Iranian leader since 1979, when the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke briefly by phone in late September, and opened the way for meetings and negotiations between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

But the Obama administration has come under fire from lawmakers who say the tough trade and financial sanctions should not be eased until Iran agrees to all international demands, including settling once and for all any concerns that it may be trying to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied it is seeking a bomb and says it is pursuing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.

The next round of negotiations with Iran is expected to be held in New York next month. The U.S. and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — will be seeking a long-term agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all respondents. Those respondents who did not have Internet access before joining the panel were provided it for free.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Iran’s Rouhani Eyes Rebuilding Relations With US.


BERLIN — Iran wants to improve bilateral relations with the United States and other Western powers, President Hassan Rouhani said in an editorial published in a German newspaper on Monday, broaching an issue he has so far avoided since he took office.

Rouhani won a landslide election victory in June promising a policy of engagement with the West and has had regular diplomatic contacts with the United States, but they have been limited to negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“We want to rebuild and improve our relations to European and North American countries on a basis of mutual respect,” he wrote in a contribution for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

“We are striving to avoid new burdens on relations between Iran and the United States and also to remove the tensions that we have inherited,” said Rouhani, who has promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and to win an easing of sanctions.

Tehran and Washington severed relations after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran cannot forget everything that has affected relations with the United States over the last 60 years, he said, but added: “We must now concentrate on the present and orientate ourselves towards the future.”

Rouhani’s diplomatic pragmatism has already resulted in significant progress. While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September, Rouhani held an historic telephone call with Barack Obama, the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken in more than three decades.

“REMOVING DOUBTS”

Iranian officials subsequently emphasized the call was to support a diplomatic resolution of Iran’s nuclear program and did not concern direct bilateral ties. Two months later Iran and world powers signed an interim deal to curb part of Iran’s nuclear activities in return for some sanctions relief.

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, said he was doing whatever he could to end tensions over Tehran’s nuclear activities, which have raised concerns in the West that Iran is seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability. Iranian officials have repeatedly denied such suggestions.

“We have never even considered the option of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said. “We’ll never give up our right to profit from nuclear energy. But we are working towards removing all doubts and answer all reasonable questions about our program.”

Iran agreed under the Nov. 24 accord to stop its most sensitive nuclear work — uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent — and cap other parts of its activities in exchange for some limited easing of sanctions, including trade in petrochemicals and gold.

On Sunday, world powers and Iran suspended their technical talks in Geneva on how to implement the agreement until after the Christmas holidays following slow progress.

In a posting on Facebook on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they would resume early next week but he described all stages of the talks as complex.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Sanctions Expansion Angers Iran; Russia Sees Nuke Deal Threat.


VIENNA/MOSCOW — A breakthrough agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that expanding a U.S. sanctions blacklist could seriously complicate the deal’s implementation.

Russia, which, along with the United States, is among the six world powers that negotiated the Nov. 24 interim accord with Tehran, echoed Iranian criticism that it violated the spirit of the deal and could “block things.”

The United States on Thursday blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.

Diplomats said Iran, in what appeared to be a response, interrupted technical talks in Vienna with the six nations over how to implement the agreement, under which Tehran is to curb its atomic activities in return for limited sanctions easing.

The developments highlighted potential obstacles negotiators face in pressing ahead with efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute between the Islamic Republic and the West that has stirred fears of a new Middle East war.

Western diplomats said the inconclusive outcome of the Dec. 9-12 expert-level discussions should not be seen as a sign that the deal hammered out nearly three weeks ago was in trouble.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency in reaction to the U.S. decision that it was evaluating the situation and would “react accordingly”, adding, “It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”

Russia also made its concerns clear.

“The U.S. administration’s decision goes against the spirit of this document,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, referring to the Geneva agreement between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany.

“Widening American ‘blacklists’ could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing sanctions pressure.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she did not think the blacklistings announced on Thursday had made the negotiations more difficult.

“No, I don’t. I think it was always going to be very complicated,” Harf told reporters, adding the United States had told Iranian officials in Vienna that more designations were coming.

DEAL OPPONENTS

Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant and has much better ties with Tehran than Western states. It supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear program but has criticized the United States and Europe for imposing additional sanctions.

U.S. officials said the blacklisting move showed the Geneva deal “does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions.”

The new measure, the first such enforcement action since Geneva, targeted entities that are suspected of involvement in the proliferation of materials for weapons of mass destruction and trying to evade the current sanctions.

Some U.S. lawmakers want further sanctions on the Islamic state. But the administration of President Barack Obama has campaigned to hold off on new measures for now to create space for the diplomatic push to settle the nuclear dispute.

Iran’s ambassador to France said expanding the blacklist played into the hands of those opposing the deal — including hardliners in Iran irked by the foreign policy shift and apprehensive that they are losing influence over Iran’s most powerful man, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“This agreement has opponents both inside Iran and outside Iran,” Ali Ahani told reporters at a meeting of business and political leaders in Monaco.

“We are determined to keep to our commitments, but we have to be sure that on the other side they are serious, and that we can show to our people that we can trust them and that the West is a viable partner.”

“The contents of this accord are quite clear. It was decided not to add sanctions. This type of decision blocks things,” added Ahani, speaking on behalf of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pulled out of the World Policy Conference after his mother was taken ill.

‘NOT PANICKING’

The Geneva deal was designed to halt Iran’s nuclear advances for six months to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement. Scope for diplomacy widened after Iran elected the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as president in June. He had promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and win sanctions easing.

Under the agreement, Iran will restrain its atomic activities in return for some easing of the international sanctions that have battered the major oil producer’s economy.

But one diplomat said the Iranian delegation in Vienna suddenly announced late on Thursday — hours after Washington made its blacklisting decision public — that it had received instructions to return to Tehran: “It was quite unexpected.”

A European Union (EU) diplomat said he did not believe the decision was linked to the issues under discussion in Vienna, but rather “their reaction to moves in the U.S. on sanctions.”

The hope was that it was a temporary problem: “The Iranians have been committed to making this work. We are not panicking.”

Iranian officials were not available for comment.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected the implementation talks to resume in the coming days.

“We have been hard at it in Vienna . . . we are making progress but I think that they’re at a point in those talks where folks feel a need to consult and take a moment,” he said during a visit to Israel. “There is every expectation that the talks are going to continue in the next few days and that we will proceed to the full implementation of that plan.”

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the discussions with Iran, also said they were expected to resume soon.

“After four days of lengthy and detailed talks, reflecting the complexity of the technical issues discussed, it became clear that further work is needed,” Michael Mann said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Sens. Kirk, Menendez Proposing New Iran Sanctions.


By Melissa Clyne

President Barack Obama’s victory in getting Congress to hold off on imposing newsanctions on Iran’s nuclear program may be fleeting.

Senators Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, are considering proposing legislation to impose new sanctions on IranThe Wall Street Journal reports.

Those sanctions would fall outside the interim, six-month window for negotiations set in the agreement struck in Geneva last month between Iran and the P5+1 powers— Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States  — that negotiated it.

“I have been a proponent of pursuing additional sanctions prospectively … but I’m beginning to think based upon on all of this that maybe what the Senate needs to do is to define the end game, or at least what it finds as acceptable as the final status,” Menendez said. “Because I’m getting nervous about what I perceive will be acceptable to [the administration] as a final status … versus what the Congress might view as acceptable.”

The administration has been treading lightly since the announcement of the interim deal, arguing that taking more immediate action could be counterproductive and kill chances for future negotiations. Under the agreement, Tehran agreed to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of international sanctions for six months.

Iran Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has stated any new sanctions would be interpreted as the end of the interim agreement.

The White House is lauding itself after the Senate Banking Committee agreed to “a pause” to let the administration pursue a comprehensive deal with Iran and the House called off a vote on a non-binding resolution for new sanctions.

Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, conceded that taking action during “delicate negotiations” with Iran could eliminate the possibility of a long-term deal and “shatter Western unity on this issue.” The Senate Banking Committee oversees sanctions legislation in the Senate.

“We should make sure that if the talks fail, it was Iran that caused their failure,” he said,Reuters reports. “We should not give Iran, the P5+1 countries or other nations a pretext to lay responsibility for their collapse on us.”

To appease critics who accuse the Obama administration of being too soft on the notoriously nefarious Iran, the White House has blacklisted companies and individuals from Singapore to Ukraine for allegedly helping Tehran evade international sanctions on its oil trade, according to the Journal.

The Iranian foreign minister says that by doing so, the United States has acted “against the spirit of the Geneva deal,” The Jerusalem Post reports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Ex-CIA Chief Hayden: Increase Pressure on Iran After Interim Deal.


Western powers will need to increase pressure on Iran after the six-month interim deal over Iran’s nuclear program is completed or will face the prospect of a new nuclear power in the Mideast, retired Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, told Newsmax.

“Iran is already within reach of creating a nuclear weapon. A ‘freeze’ would leave them too close to a weapon. So in six months, we need to push them back from where they are,” Hayden said Saturday in an exclusive interview with Newsmax. “We need to take dramatic steps to increase pressure on Iran not to go further.”

Hayden said, “What’s important is what comes after on the interim deal. I would ask [critics] to concentrate your fire on what happens in six months,” after Iran’s uranium enrichment program is reviewed by international inspectors.

“If this is a bridge to something different, okay. But if it is not a bridge to a better, permanent agreement, it’s awful, and it will be difficult to move on,” Hayden said.

Hayden added that what he feared most was “a diplomatic version of the continuing resolution,” a temporary budget measure which keeps the federal government running until further action is taken.

“In this case, it would allow Iran to just sit where they are now. That’s just not acceptable,” said Hayden, also former CIA director.

Hayden also responded to comments by French opposition party leader Jean Francois Cope, who last week strongly denounced the agreement permitting uranium enrichment by Iran in an address to the Hudson Institute and in subsequent meetings with House Republicans.

As for Cope’s remark that Iran’s “moderate” that President Hassan Rouhani is a figurehead and the true power resides with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Hayden said, “Rouhani is as good as it gets when it comes to an Iranian politician you can talk to. I would call him ‘pragmatist’ rather than ‘moderate.” But yes, any decisions he makes must be approved by the Supreme Guide. As my old boss George W. Bush used to say, ‘he’s the decider.”’

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

Related stories:

Michael Hayden: Only a ‘Fraction’ of Snowden’s Secrets Revealed
Dershowitz: Iran Deal ‘Cataclysmic Error of Gigantic Proportions’

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By John Gizzi

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