Iran sanctions, revisited


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out forcefully against a nuclear agreement with Iran three times on Sunday: At the Sunday Israeli Cabinet meeting, on CBS News’ Face the Nation and at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which was meeting in Jerusalem.

“What is being proposed now is a deal in which Iran retains all of that capacity” to build a nuclear weapon, he told some 3,500 representatives of the Jewish federations. “Not one centrifuge is dismantled; not one. Iran gets to keep tons of low enriched uranium.”

By the time of Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks, the talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) had adjourned without an agreement. The two sides will meet again on Nov. 20, and that may have been Mr. Netanyahu’s reason for continuing his denunciations and continuing to refer to an agreement in present-tense terms.

Whatever his motivation to speak out so forcefully, Mr. Netanyahu is right to do so. The Iranian nuclear crisis is ongoing. In its apparent willingness to ease sanctions if Iran agrees to a temporary halt to its nuclear program, the West seems to have forgotten why the sanctions were imposed in the first place. The sanctions exist not to bring Iran to the negotiating table. The sanctions were put in place and were escalated in order to force Iran to give up its nuclear program, and to dismantle its developed nuclear capabilities. Anything less than that will be the “bad deal” that Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. will not accept.

AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee agreed with this position when they refused a White House request to suspend lobbying for new sanctions on Iran while negotiations were taking place. “There will absolutely be no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts” to advance the sanctions, AIPAC said in a statement.

Three weeks ago in this space we wrote: “It is properly up to Iran to establish facts that result in the easing or removal of sanctions. But there is no point in easing sanctions before those claims are proved. Why ease up on a successful effort before it achieves results?”

Nothing appears to have happened over the past several weeks to suggest a different course. The steps Iran must take are clear: It must dismantle and destroy its nuclear program. Only then should the West consider the lifting of sanctions. Anything less is not just a bad deal — it is no deal, at all.

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