Clinton in Israel: Iran nuclear proposals “non-starters”


Iran’s proposals to date in three rounds of nuclear talks with the P5+1 are “non-starters,” and suggest Iran’s leadership has not yet made the decision to compromise on its nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday in Israel.

“I made very clear that the proposals that we have seen from Iran thus far within the P5+1 negotiations are non-starters,” Clinton told reporters after a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, CNN reported.

“Despite three rounds of talks, Iran has yet to make a strategic decision to address the international community’s concerns and fulfill their obligations under the IAEA and the UN Security Council,” Clinton said. “The choice is ultimately Iran’s to make.”

Iran is willing to discuss halting its 20% enrichment, but has balked to date at doing so without getting upfront recognition of its right to enrich for energy purposes.

“The issue of the 20% enrichment …is an issue that could be discussed and decided,” Iran’s UN envoy Mohammad Khazaee told Al Monitor in an interview July 12. “It is not off the table. … It is possible to close the gap.”

Clinton conducted the most high-profile visit of a recent “cavalcade” of high-ranking American officials traveling to Israel to huddle on Iran. Among the parade of senior US visitors: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in the coming weeks.

The intense US-Israel consultations are aimed, from Washington’s perspective, at trying to reassure Israel’s leadership not to conduct strikes on Iran, likely in the fall. Despite Clinton’s assertion Monday that the United States and Israel are currently “on the same page” on Iran, Israeli leaders have apparently not eased American concerns about their intentions.

“For the first time on the agenda are serious crippling sanctions,” former Israeli Knesset Defense and Security Committee member Ephraim Sneh said at a July 12th round-table hosted by the Israel Policy Forum in New York, referring to tough new European Union sanctions on the import of Iranian oil, which went into effect July 1. “We have hardly two months to implement them. I advise those who can implement them, ‘Don’t put Israel in a corner.'”

Asked what specifically is in two months–i.e., September, Sneh said that Israel’s more limited military capabilities constrain its timetable and calendar for action.

“Our operational window is narrower than the American [one],” he said.

Sneh argued in favor of tougher sanctions ramped up quickly over an Israeli strike. Noting the several former senior Israeli national security figures who have out come vocally against an Israeli strike, including former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, Sneh cautioned  their message is liable to be misunderstood.

“What you hear from senior Israeli defense officials is that the military option is not the preferred option,” Sneh said, lamenting that the Israeli government has allowed such an operational debate to become public. “If you listen carefully, they say you should build a reliable military option. But you should do the utmost not to be compelled to use it.”

Israel’s military leadership “cannot recommend a plan which is not likely to succeed,” he said.

(Photo: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) gestures during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem July 16, 2012. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool.)

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