WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House and Jewish leaders described a National Security Council briefing on Iran as “constructive” and pledged to continue to consult on the issue.
“Leaders of several Jewish organizations participated in an off-the-record discussion with senior Administration officials about issues of the highest priority for the U.S., for our community and for America’s allies, halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” said a statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued late Tuesday evening.
“We had a constructive and open exchange and agreed to continue the consultation to enhance the prospect of achieving a transparent and effective diplomatic resolution,” it said. “We welcome the reaffirmation of the President’s commitment to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capability and that all options remain viable to assure that end.”
The meeting was called Tuesday on short notice as the Obama and Netanyahu governments appear to be parting ways on Iran strategy.
Netanyahu has derided what seems to be the emerging U.S. strategy of allowing Iran to maintain a low level of uranium enrichment as part of a final deal to relieve sanctions aimed at stopping the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Additionally, Netanyahu and a number of major Jewish organizations back enhanced Iran sanctions.
The Jewish groups are backing lawmakers in Congress who want to advance such sanctions as soon as possible.
The Obama administration is pressing Congress to delay considering such sanctions until after the next round of talks between Iran and major world powers over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program that are due to take place in November.
Reuters reported Tuesday that top officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, were delivering secret briefings to top U.S. senators to persuade them to delay the new sanctions.
A corresponding statement from Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, suggested that the timing of the meeting with the Jewish leaders was related to the effort to facilitate the next round of talks with Iran.
“Following on the recent P5+1 talks with Iran, and in advance of the next round of talks November 7-8, Senior Administration Officials today briefed the leaders of several Jewish organizations on our progress,” Meehan said, referring to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain – plus Germany.
“The administration officials made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that our preference is to resolve the issue peacefully through diplomacy,” Meehan said. “The meeting was constructive and we look forward to continuing these discussions going forward.”
According to the Al-Monitor news site, the administration briefers were National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and Deputy National Security Advisors Antony Blinken and Ben Rhodes.
In addition to the Presidents Conference, groups represented at the meeting included the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.