- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that any agreement with Iran to halt the Islamic republic’s nuclear program must also include a change in its “genocidal policy,” and that economic sanctions on the country must continue to the extent that they can.

Mr. Netanyahu spoke a day after President Obama defended a deal struck last month that would require Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some international economic sanctions.

Iran is perilously close to crossing the nuclear threshold,” Mr. Netanyahu told a Brookings Institution forum via satellite. “History will judge all of us on whether we succeed or not in rising to meet this greatest of all challenges.”

Mr. Netanyahu said the U.S. and Israel form “the indispensable alliance” on Iran, but he has been sharply critical of the deal negotiated last month by the U.S. and other world powers.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have started inspecting Iran’s nuclear site at Arak as part of last month’s agreement, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency.

Under the deal agreed to in Geneva, Iran will roll back key parts of its nuclear program, specifically those related to highly enriched uranium. Iranian leaders also will grant international inspectors unprecedented access to nuclear facilities, part of the Obama administration’s insistence that the agreement be fully verifiable and subject to constant and rigorous oversight.

In exchange, the U.S. has lifted some economic sanctions against Iran, freeing up roughly $7 billion in previously frozen assets for the Middle Eastern nation.

“Steps must be made to prevent further erosion of the sanctions,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Because ultimately, the sanctions remain an essential element of the international effort to compel Iran to dismantle its nuclear military infrastructure.”

The preliminary agreement is in effect for six months. At the end of that period, the two sides will sit down again and try to hammer out a longer-term deal.

Mr. Obama said Saturday at the forum that neither he nor other high-ranking U.S. officials take the Iranian government at its word.

“If I had an option, if we could create an option in which Iran eliminated every single nut and bolt of their nuclear program, and foreswore the possibility of ever having a nuclear program, and, for that matter, got rid of all its military capabilities, I would take it,” he said. “But … that particular option is not available. And so as a consequence, what we have to do is to make a decision as to, given the options available, what is the best way for us to assure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.”

Mr. Obama also said he envisions a scenario that would permit Iran to maintain a “peaceful” nuclear program.

Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that he wants to be optimistic, but that he’s concerned about Iran’s long-term intent.

“[J]ust yesterday, the president of Iran, [Hassan] Rouhani, said that centrifuges will never stop in Iran,” Mr. McCaul said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That sends to me a very cold, hard message that they are not intent on a civilian nuclear peaceful program, but rather towards, you know, getting a nuclear weapon.”

Mr. Rouhani said that nuclear technology and uranium enrichment is the country’s “definite right,” but Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on the program that the Obama administration needs to push for a peaceful program without enrichment.

“[W]e need to try everything, in my view, to see if there’s a peaceful way to put an end to this program,” he said. “That’s why I think the interim deal makes sense. I share the skepticism that we can get to a final deal.”



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