Israel forcefully rejected Thursday US President Barack Obama’s assertion that critics of the nuclear agreement with Iran have failed to present better options, arguing that a good deal is still possible if the international community, led by Washington, maintains the sanctions regime on Tehran.
“We have consistently laid out an alternative, which is a better deal that actually blocks Iran’s path to the bomb and links the lifting of restrictions on Iran to tangible changes in Iranian behavior,” a senior Israeli official said.
The official also disputed Obama’s contention that the entire international community backs the Vienna agreement, which the United States and five world powers signed with Iran on Tuesday. He also indicated that the Israeli government is convinced it can persuade US lawmakers to oppose the deal. “We believe we can win on the substance,” he told The Times of Israel.
Defending the deal at a lengthy press conference Wednesday, the president argued that critics of the agreement have not produced a better proposition on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or, for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that’s already spoken, none of them have presented to me, or the American people, a better alternative,” Obama said.
The president added that he had yet to hear about a better solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, arguing that there are only two options: the nuclear standoff can either be resolved diplomatically, through the deal the P5+1 world powers negotiated, or through war. “Those are the options,” Obama said.
But the senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, contested that argument, saying that the international community should have “held out for a better deal” by maintaining and even intensifying the sanctions in Iran and insisting they only be lifted after Iran demonstrates compliance with the P5+1’s demands.
The official also disagreed with Obama’s reasoning that it would have been impossible to keep up the international sanctions regime against Iran.
“We don’t believe that sanctions would collapse; on the contrary,” the official said, “we sincerely believe that the sanctions can be maintained in place, if there is American leadership on this matter.”
Because of the United States’ global economic power, its sanctions directly affect international economic behavior, he reasoned. “If you’re a German or a Swiss company and want to do business in Iran but in so doing have to give up on the American market, it’s a no-brainer. If forced to choose between the American or the Iranian economy, what are most rational people going to do?”