White House tightens enforcement of Iran sanctions amid meetings with Israelis By Philip Weiss

16 December 2013 — Mondoweiss

What is the role of Israel in shaping US foreign policy? The White House has now tightened its enforcement of sanctions on Iran, potentially threatening the breakthrough deal with Iran, in the midst of high-level meetings between White House security officials and Israeli officials, at the White House.

And Reuters said these meetings were the result of an agreement between Obama and Netanyahu last month. What’s the deal?

Here are the stories: Yesterday Reuters said that the U.S. was potentially undermining the deal with Iran by adding companies to the existing sanctions list.

The United States on Thursday blacklisted additional companies and people under existing sanctions intended to prevent Iran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such aims.

Reuters today reports on the Israeli access: 

President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice played host to a series of meetings with Israeli officials last week to try to gain their support for an interim deal with Iran aimed at containing Tehran’s nuclear program.

The meetings, announced in a White House statement on Sunday, arose from talks between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month as the United States tried to persuade a skeptical Israel to support the Iran deal.

Here’s that White House readout:

National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, along with senior officials from the Departments of State and Treasury, hosted Israeli National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen and other Israeli officials for meetings at the White House last week to discuss the P5+1’s efforts to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  During the meetings, the U.S. team reaffirmed President Obama’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Reuters says there was “a series” of meetings and they grew out of a promise Obama made to Netanyahu:

Rice, along with her deputy, Tony Blinken, and senior officials from the departments of State and Treasury, met with Israeli national security adviser Yossi Cohen and other Israeli officials on Thursday and Friday.

The series of meetings was an initial step toward fulfilling a promise Obama made to Netanyahu in their November 24 phone call that the United States would consult [Israel] regarding the effort to forge a comprehensive solution with Iran.

State Department says that the tightened sanctions are “designations” of new companies to be sanctioned under existing guidelines. Reporters at Friday’s briefing were not buying:

[D]o the new designations make it harder to do the work in Vienna?

Spokesperson Marie Harf: …[W]e have been very clear throughout the entire negotiating process with the Iranians that we were going to continue with designations. They knew that. They signed on to the Joint Plan of Action knowing that.

Reporters were dubious about the timing of these designations, just as negotiators were working with Iranian counterparts in Geneva.

Why would you give the Iranians any excuse not to carry out the agreement? Why not at the very least try to get the implementation portion of the agreement nailed down before doing additional designations?… does it not risk upsetting the apple cart?

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