In an unusual move, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has warned US officials against supporting a congressional bill that would hit Iran with new sanctions should nuclear talks fail, Bloomberg reported.
The bill, which is sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), seeks to punish the Islamic Republic should it fail to reach an agreement with the P5+1 by the June deadline.
The Mossad’s warning, which sharply diverges from the formal position of the Israeli government, said that the bill could lead to the collapse of nuclear talk’s altogether.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed the bill, which US President Barack Obama has threatened to veto. Obama has argued against any new measures against Iran, saying that current sanctions are already weighing down on the Islamic Republic and could torpedo current talks.
In his recent State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama vowed that he would veto the sanctions bill. The president said that the bill would “all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.”
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies – including Israel – while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict,” Obama stated.
“There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all option on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran,” he continued. “But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.”
The sanctions bill was first introduced to Congress in December 2013, but ultimately failed to reach the then Democrat-controlled Senate. Now, with the Republican Party in control of the chamber, Kirk and Menendez are hoping to push the bill through.
According to the report, two unnamed senior US officials confirmed that the Mossad’s assessment was in line with that of the US intelligence community.
“We’ve had a standing assessment on this,” an official stated. “We haven’t run the new Kirk-Menendez bill through the process, but the point is that any bill that triggers sanctions would collapse the talks. That’s what the assessment is.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said an Israeli intelligence officials described the sanctions bill as “throwing a grenade into the process,” the report stated.
Menendez, who has been fighting fiercely for his bill, criticized Obama for threatening to veto the bill. Reportedly, he was displeased by the Mossad’s intervention and contacted Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer for an official explanation.
US lawmakers are working on a separate bill that would require congressional approval on any final agreements with Iran. Sponsored by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the bill aims to make sure Obama negotiators take a hard line stance with Tehran.
“There’s continual efforts to try to figure out a way for Congress to play a role to strengthen whatever final deal may occur,” Corker told Reuters.
In response to Obama’s threats, Republican speaker of the House John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. The invite prompted an angry response from the White House, saying the invitation was “a departure from protocol.”