Obama and Netanyahu Show Dueling Iran Visions in Their Own Words

Will There Be Iran Nuclear Deal?

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama both have vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, they have very different views of how to do that.

The difference: Obama is committed to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but Netanyahu wants to prevent it from acquiring the combination of technical knowledge and industrial capacity needed to develop them. The Islamic Republic already is very close to having that, according to intelligence assessments and nuclear experts.

“There are no good deals with Iran. There are only deals that carry varying amounts of risk, uncertainty and danger,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and a former Mideast adviser to both Democratic and Republican administrations. “A deal on the terms that the president envisions may push those risks and dangers back without eliminating them.”

Obama is seeking to freeze and roll back Iran’s program for a minimum of 10 years. Netanyahu says the terms being discussed would only delay the inevitable rather than prevent Iran from ever getting a weapon.

He’s said the U.S. and its partners can and should demand much tougher conditions, and that Iran will be forced to accept them because of the toll sanctions have taken on its economy.

U.S. officials say that over the last decade, the Iranian regime has advanced its nuclear program whenever international sanctions have been imposed, despite the economic and diplomatic penalties.

The contrast between the dueling visions of Netanyahu and Obama over how to stop Iran couldn’t have been clearer than it’s been in their dueling statements this week.

* On the terms for an effective deal:

Netanyahu, in his Tuesday speech before Congress:

“It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it. Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal. A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short breakout time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.”

Obama in an interview with Reuters on Monday:

“If in fact Iran can accept terms that would ensure a one-year breakout period for 10 years or longer, and during that period we know Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon -- we have inspectors on the ground that give us assurances that they’re not creating a covert program -- why would we not take that deal when we know the alternatives, whether through sanctions or military actions, will not result in as much assurance that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon?”

* On whether the U.S. approach would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon:

Netanyahu to Congress:

“A deal that’s supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation would instead spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet. This deal won’t be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control.”

Obama, speaking to reporters after Netanyahu’s speech:

“If we are in fact successful in negotiating, then this will be the best deal possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Nothing else comes close. Sanctions won’t do it. Even military action would not be as successful as the deal that we have put forward.”

“If we are able to get a deal, not only do we cut off all the greatest pathways for Iran getting a nuclear weapon, but we also know we’ll have a verification mechanism and an inspection mechanism where if they cheat, if they engage in a covert program, we are far more likely to see it in time to do something about it.”

* On how soon Iran could get a nuclear weapon if it violated a proposed deal:

Netanyahu to Congress:

“Because Iran’s nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran’s breakout time would be very short -- about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s. And if -- if Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges, faster and faster centrifuges, is not stopped, that breakout time could still be shorter, a lot shorter.”

Obama in the interview on Monday:

“The deal that we’re trying to negotiate is to make sure that there’s at least one year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one. And as long as we’ve got that one-year breakout capacity, that ensures us that we can take military action to stop them.”

* On whether more sanctions would force Iran to make greater concessions:

Netanyahu to Congress:

“Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back well beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil. Now if Iran threatens to walk away from the table -- and this often happens in a Persian bazaar -- call their bluff. They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”

Obama in the interview on Monday:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks that the best way to do that is either through doubling down on more sanctions or through military action, ensuring that Iran has absolutely no enrichment capabilities whatsoever. And there’s no expert on Iran or nuclear proliferation around the world that seriously thinks that Iran is going to respond to additional sanctions by eliminating its nuclear program.”

* On whether a minimum 10-year deal is long enough:

Netanyahu to Congress:

“Virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.

‘‘Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but it’s the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. It’s a blink of an eye in the life of our children.”

Obama in the interview on Monday:

“Double-digit years. If we’ve got that and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurances that they don’t have a nuclear weapon.”

David Albright, a physicist and former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector who’s a founder of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said it’s hard to argue about a deal that doesn’t exist -- and it remains to be seen what the international community and Iran might agree on.

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