WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC joined Israel’s government and some congressional leaders in calling on the Obama administration to intensify sanctions should Iran continue its uranium enrichment during negotiations.
“To avoid any misunderstanding in Tehran, America must clearly signal that it will consider no easing of sanctions until Iran has verifiably suspended its nuclear program,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a memo sent Monday to congressmen and released to reporters. “If Iran’s nuclear activities continue, the United States and the international community should escalate sanctions and reinforce President Obama’s message that a credible military option is on the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”
Top Obama administration officials have asked Congress not to consider new sanctions on Iran until after talks over the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program renew later this month.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned in recent weeks for intensified sanctions should Iran continue to enrich uranium. Last week, in a meeting with the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, he found a friendly ear.
“Our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged and we will not hesitate from proceeding with further sanctions and other options to protect U.S. interests and ensure regional security,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement after meeting with Netanyahu on Sept. 30. “While we welcome Iran’s diplomatic engagement, it cannot be used to buy time, avoid sanctions, and continue the march toward nuclear weapons capability.”
President Obama has said he sees an opening in the ostensible moderation of Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged to make transparent a nuclear program he insists is peaceful. Netanyahu says he believes Rouhani is lying.
Notably, the AIPAC statement did not embrace Netanyahu’s calls for an end to all enrichment as part of a final deal. Instead it called only for a suspension of nuclear enrichment as a predicate for negotiations, not as part of a final deal.
That posture is aligned more with Western powers, which reportedly are ready to allow a degree of enrichment to continue, than with Netanyahu.