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White House tightens enforcement of Iran sanctions amid meetings with Israelis

on 22 Comments
Obama and Netanyahu in 2011 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Obama and Netanyahu in 2011 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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:

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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22 Responses

  1. Erasmus
    December 16, 2013, 12:15 pm

    Additional Designations

    It is a very unnecessary act, unfriendly and not compatible with the nature of the InterimAgreement and surely does not originate from a bona fide attitude.

    However, imo there is no evidence that would justify dramatizing the unfriendly step. It is just playing to the R + D hawks without any real consequence…… hopefully.

  2. Citizen
    December 16, 2013, 12:22 pm

    It’s Obama trying to have his cake and eat it too–I think that’s his hallmark in everything he does. The key to him is a deduction from this pattern in everything he’s done–he thinks American masses are stupid and ignorant. Guess what? He’s right. Unfortunately, Bibi N agrees acts the same way, and has said “America is easily moved.” I think that Obama agrees with Bibi. Of course, so did Bush Jr. & Bill Clinton. All of them calculated correctly. Which reminds me, Hitler brushed away concern at his table talks with his plans, e.g., “Who remembers the Armenians?” So it goes, a la Kurt Vonnegurt (sic).

  3. amigo
    December 16, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Does America have any shame left or dignity.

    It,s foreign policy being dictated by a pip squeak tin pot nation.

    My how the mighty fall.

    Does the Lobby have an office in the White House.

  4. American
    December 16, 2013, 12:38 pm

    “U.S. was potentially undermining the deal with Iran by adding companies to the existing sanctions list.”

    We should be surprised?
    Let’s see what Russia and the other biggies decided about what sanctions they will abide by and which not.
    The US is losing leverage and everyone knows it…..they will have to do a lot of real down and dirty strong arming on other countries to make any more sanctions stick.
    And lets see what Obama then offers ‘waviers’ on on these sanctions…..thats been part of the game in the past.

  5. HarryLaw
    December 16, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Apparently these enforcement actions against third party actors, according to the Russians, breach the spirit of Geneva, which they undoubtedly do, nevertheless the Iranians are not letting this stop the negotiations, the parameters of a comprehensive agreement are already in place, the question is does the US want regime change with ever more sanctions resulting eventually and inevitably in armed conflict? Or does it want what the majority of US citizens and world opinion desire, a peaceful negotiated settlement? The rabid right wing in the US and the Israelis do not want this. This will be Obama’s legacy, what will he do? Unless the opponents of a peaceful solution can manufacture the consent necessary, which I don’t think they will be able to do, in my opinion the US electorate will do as they did over the Syrian chemical weapons debacle and withhold their consent, and in no uncertain terms.

  6. annie
    December 16, 2013, 1:17 pm

    fyi, javad zarif’s FB page w/google translate

    A brief note :
    In the past few days, the Americans took the wrong actions that we take into consideration all aspects with which we respond to it . Some friends of the happy heart of Geneva Action Plan premature death, it was announced that he wanted to express is the reality.
    We will aggressively pursue negotiations in Geneva , and of course against any improper action and counterproductive ( even if the agreement is not violated ) responsive , slick , smart and targeted will be shown .
    Negotiations and thus is difficult to achieve , and it certainly has many Frazvnshyb . This is also the first day we had anticipated .
    We need friends who are also using silence , while retailers are taking the side of the pit Htmamy Frmayshatshan know all the answers but important task of negotiating team to pursue the national interest and the interest of the public response to some does not know and for the time being it is unfair and unjust accusations against the national interest to remain silent , but at the proper time we will respond to every object and uncertainties .

  7. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    December 16, 2013, 1:49 pm

    ”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.”

    You see, to me, this is utterly laughable.

    Why on earth should top officials of the most powerful nation on earth be busting a gut to ‘gain the support’ of a piddling Levantine statelet? And one which depends on them for charity, at that? It makes NO sense. Israel isn’t even a party to the negotiations. What they think is irrelevant especially since everyone with even half a clue knows that, macho bluster aside, in reality there is no way Israel is going to attack Iran. The whole thing is absurd.

  8. PeaceThroughJustice
    December 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

    “Rice, along with her deputy, Tony Blinken, …”

    From Blinken’s Wikipedia:

    Blinken was born in Yonkers, New York, to Jewish parents Judith and Donald Blinken. He attended Dalton School in New York City until 1971, when he moved to Paris, France, with his divorced mother and her new husband, Holocaust survivor and lawyer, Samuel Pisar. Pisar, who had survived both the Auschwitz and Dachau, strongly influenced his views.

    The Holocaust certainly looms large among our government officials.

  9. W.Jones
    December 16, 2013, 2:41 pm

    Let’s make some captions for the photo above.

    “I got you by the b—s now with your campaign donors”
    “Yeep.” (in a squeaky voice)

    “We ARE going after Iran.”
    “Yes, … … sir.”

    The vision by Nostradamus fulfilled: The Tiger and the Mouse.

  10. HarryLaw
    December 16, 2013, 3:04 pm

    ‘Conflicts Forum’, is always a good read on issues in the middle east in this article they say ..”It is not of course just oil companies that are lining up for talks in Iran. Queues of businessmen are forming at Iranian consulates around the world. And this is causing alarm in certain quarters. In a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal,penned by two former US Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the duo specifically warns (in respect to their concerns arising from the agreeing of the interim Accord) that “for individuals, companies and countries (including some allied countries), the loss of business with Iran has been economically significant. Most will be less vigilant about enforcing or abiding by sanctions that are the subject of negotiations; and which seem to be ‘on the way out’. – See more at:

  11. ToivoS
    December 16, 2013, 5:02 pm

    Ignatius in wapo has a very optimistic take on Iran, in spite of this dangerous move by Treasury:

    I agree with this assessment. I think Obama is playing a very careful game trying to contain Congress and the lobby from sabotaging the peace talks with Iran. I also suspect that the Iranians are fully aware of Obama’s political problems and are showing some slack. I would not be surprised to find out some day that this problem was even discussed with the Iranians during the preliminary meetings that occurred last spring and summer.

    Finding accommodation with Iran will likely be Obama’s major achievement in his 8 years at the helm — he will surely do all he can to make it happen.

    • just
      December 16, 2013, 5:44 pm

      I certainly hope that you are correct…………

      In fact, I pray that you are.

  12. Erasmus
    December 16, 2013, 5:17 pm

    @ ToivoS assessment


    Obama Care and Iran will be the 2 major Obama legacies.
    I wished i would be sufficienly confident to add: PALESTINE and GUN CONTROL

    • ToivoS
      December 17, 2013, 3:21 am

      I also wish that Palestine and gun control would be part of his legacy. But neither will. In fact if you have watched what is happening over the last few weeks it should be clear that Obama and Kerry have conceded Palestine to the Israelis. They have made a trade. The US will let Israel do what it wants in Palestine in exchange for them to back off on Iran. This is already happening. The only tool the Palestinians have in this game is BDS and pushing for recognition in the UN and the ICJ. (Maybe the ICC). Given that Abbas is a tool of Israel and the US the these latter options are very unlikely. The Palestinians will have to wait a bit longer until they have a leadership that is willing to take on the US and Israel. It will happen but not during Obama’s reign. And forget about gun control. That will will not happen in any of our life times.

  13. just
    December 16, 2013, 5:26 pm

    Are we the only nation on earth that undermines itself for the sake of a terrible Apartheid “state”???

    Do our elected officials serve the American people or the Israeli goons? Why do we risk war and strife rather than a genuine relationship with a great nation (Iran) and her wonderful, eager people? We need to end this disastrous relationship with Israel.

    (I never, ever even came close to liking Susan Rice………… she obviously does not care about our national security. She serves Israel.)

    • Kathleen
      December 16, 2013, 10:41 pm

      Clearly they do not serve the majority of the American people. Israel not only wants to “upset the apple cart” they want to blow the whole cart and apples up

  14. Abdul-Rahman
    December 16, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Adding on to what commenter “just” said; these sanctions (which are in and of themselves immoral, unjust, and imperialistic in nature to start with) actually harm the chance at the United States achieving a positive relationship with the nation of Iran: in particular with regards to economics. The American people would benefit enormously from America having better access to things like say, contracts for Iranian natural resources. But things that would benefit America and the American people are of course of absolutely no concern for the apartheid apologists and leeches over at AIPAC.

  15. Taxi
    December 17, 2013, 12:06 am

    No deal with Iran means war. A war that will involve not just israel but saudi arabian oil fields too. A war that could very easily see the fall of both these immoral criminal states. Not forgetting the strife that will befall the jewish American community for dragging reluctant Americans to another mideast war.

    I say, make my day AIPAC – go on push for war, push-push-push.

  16. Citizen
    December 17, 2013, 4:50 am

    The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Dec. 3-8 among 2,001 adults, finds that 43% disapprove of the agreement between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program, 32% approve of the deal, while 25% do not offer an opinion.

    Approval is higher for Democrats and educated, lower for GOP and less educated olks.

    Many have bought into the thought you can’t trust the Iranians.

    Haaretz spread word on these poll results..

  17. Citizen
    December 17, 2013, 4:55 am

    This is change from poll result immediately after the agreement was made, when Reuters said poll showed Americans were 2 to 1 in favor of the agreement.

  18. just
    December 17, 2013, 7:38 am

    Hope that Congress takes some time out of their busy holidays to read this:

    “Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the Iranian nuclear deal would be dead if the U.S. Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they do not take effect for six months, Time Magazine reported on Monday.

    In a transcript of the interview, which was conducted on Saturday and posted online on Monday, Time said it asked Zarif what happens if Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they don’t go into effect for six months.

    According to the magazine, he replied: “The entire deal is dead.” Zarif was referring to a November 24 agreement with six world powers under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions. ”

    Congress– the Grinch in toto.

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