WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House held at least two phone calls with Jewish leaders to explain aspects of the interim sanctions-for-nuclear-rollbacks deal between Iran and major powers.
Among the speakers on the conference calls Monday with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations for North America were Tony Blinken, a deputy national security adviser, and David Cohen, the top Treasury official in charge of implementing sanctions.
The off-the-record calls were a signal of the importance that the administration attaches to keeping pro-Israel groups on board for the six-month interim deal achieved over the weekend in Geneva, however skeptical the groups may be of the deal.
Generally, according to participants, questioners pressed the U.S. officials on the degree to which the deal impacts sanctions and whether the concessions to Iran could be reversed should Iran renege.
The officials said the deal’s sanctions relief affected only the “margins” of the Iranian economy, and that the main sanctions, targeting Iran’s energy and financial sectors, would remain in place.
The White House officials acknowledged differences with Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the deal as “very bad,” but said the endgame was the same: incapacitating Iran’s nuclear capacity, according to call participants.
Another White House call was held Tuesday for leaders of faith groups; Jewish leaders joined the call.
Separately, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a memo on Monday expressed concerns about the interim deal. AIPAC noted that the agreement allows Iran to keep enriching uranium, albeit at low levels, even though U.N. Security Council resolutions have called for a suspension of enrichment pending a final deal, and that it appears to preemptively allow Iran an enrichment capacity as part of a final status deal.
Also problematic, AIPAC said in the memo, is that the deal “includes an option to extend the negotiating window beyond an initial six-month period,” which “creates the possibility that the initial agreement will become a de-facto final agreement.”
The memo called on Congress to pass legislation that would impose penalties should Iran renege on the deal.