The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service Tamir Pardo has denied a report which claimed he and other senior Mossad officials expressed opposition to a US bill imposing further sanctions on Iran – a position seen as diametrically opposite that of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Thursday.
“Contrary to what has been reported, the Head of the Mossad did not say that he opposes imposing additional sanctions on Iran,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
According to the release, “the Head of the Mossad emphasized in the meeting that the exceptional effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran in recent years are what brought Iran to the negotiating table.”
The original report, published by Bloomberg, contended that there were differences of opinion between the White House and Netanyahu and that Mossad officials backed the White House in claiming that sanctions against Tehran would hurt efforts to reach an agreement on nuclear enrichment.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said on Wednesday that a senior Israeli intelligence official told a Congressional delegation that recently visited Israel that additional sanctions would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.”
The Israeli statement, however, denied that charge, as well.
“Regarding the reported reference to ‘throwing a grenade,’ the Head of the Mossad did not use this expression regarding the imposition of sanctions, which he believes to be the sticks necessary for reaching a good deal with Iran,” according to the statement.
Pardo “used this expression as a metaphor to describe the possibility of creating a temporary crisis in the negotiations at the end of which talks would resume under improved conditions. The Head of the Mossad pointed out explicitly that the bad agreement taking shape with Iran is likely to lead to a regional arms race,” according to the statement.
According to the Channel 2 report, Obama administration officials have pointed to the supposed disagreements to argue against the bill, according to which additional sanctions would be activated if the current negotiations on the nuclear issue fall through.
However, “The Head of the Mossad noted that in negotiating with Iran, it is essential to present both carrots and sticks and that the latter are currently lacking. The Head of the Mossad noted further that in the absence of strong pressure, the Iranians will make no meaningful compromises.”
Under the bill, if an agreement is not reached between Iran and world powers on the nuclear issue by the end of June, additional sanctions will be imposed. US President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the proposal if it is approved by Congress.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday invited Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress on February 11 – which happens to be the 36th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. While the invitation was seen as a defiant move against Obama, the visit is expected to go through.
This will be the third time that Netanyahu will have addressed both houses of Congress, a record apparently held by only one other foreign leader: Winston Churchill.
Boehner said he invited Netanyahu “to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life.”
While Reuters said Netanyahu reportedly mulled requesting a visit with Obama, “The President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election,” the White House said in a statement released Thursday.
On Wednesday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) charged that the administration’s positions on talks with Iran came off, “like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
Menendez, speaking at a senate hearing, said his impression was that the administration backed “the Iranian narrative of victimization,” countering that, “they are the ones with original sin, an illicit nuclear weapons program going back over the course of 20 years that they are unwilling to come clean on. So I don’t know why we feel compelled to make their case.”