- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized the outlines of a U.S.-led international plan to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons program, saying it sounded as if Iran would be trading a nominal drawdown in enriched uranium in exchange for significant concessions on sanctions.

The deal as described, he said, means that Iran maintains its enrichment capabilities to develop nuclear bombs.

“All Iran gives is a minor concession of taking 20 percent enriched uranium and bringing it down to a lower enrichment, but that they could cover within a few weeks,” Mr. Netanyahu said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So Iran effectively becomes a threshold nation, threshold nuclear power nation, makes a minor concession, and in exchange for that, the … international community reverses the direction of sanctions, gives Iran several million dollars’ worth in direct assistance … and other things. This is a huge change from the pressure that was applied on Iran through the effective sanctions regime, which brought them to the table in the first place.”

“In other words, Iran gives practically nothing and it gets a hell of a lot — that’s not a good deal,” he continued.

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was also skeptical.

“My concern here is that we seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There is no right under international law for domestic enrichment. There is a right to a peaceful civilian nuclear program.”

“If past is prologue, we need to be very wide-eyed about what these negotiations are and we accept,” he continued.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has asked Congress to hold off on new sanctions until talks are completed. Negotiations are set to resume Nov. 20.

“I said that I’d wait [until] this week — in fact, this week has not produced a result,” Mr. Menendez said. “And to be very honest with you, I think that the possibility of moving ahead with new sanctions, including wording it in such a way that if there is a deal that is acceptable that those sanctions could cease upon such a deal, is possible — it’s insurance for the United States to make sure that Iran actually complies with an agreement that we would want to see, which is of course desirable, and at the same time it’s also an incentive to the Iranians to know what’s coming if you don’t strike a deal.

“So I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward on a package that, ultimately, would send a very clear message where we intend to be if the Iranians don’t strike a deal and stop their nuclear weapons program.”

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