Israel and U.S. Launch Global Push for New Iran Sanctions

Israel and U.S. Launch Global Push for New Iran Sanctions
# 16 February 2010 04:28 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Israel is joining the diplomatic action as the world approaches decision time in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen is arriving in Tel Aviv for a series of discussions focused on Iran, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading for talks in Russia for meetings with top Russian officials, APA reports quoting Al Jazeera.

Israel and the United States will hold strategic talks on the issue next week, the first such talks since Netanyahu took office.

A senior Israeli official said Saturday that the U.S., France, Britain and Germany have been updating Israel continuously on developments at the UN and in major world capitals on drafting new measures against the Islamic Republic.

"As far as we know, efforts are being made to reach a decision on sanctions, and to have them approved in the Security Council by mid- to late March," the official said, adding, "The sanctions are expected to focus on the Revolutionary Guards and bodies linked to the nuclear program, and less on the Iranian population."

Tel Aviv and Washington have held several high-level consultations on Iran in recent weeks. Last month U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones visited Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli colleagues, and two weeks ago Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta paid a secret visit to the country. The U.S. officials briefed their counterparts on sanctions the Obama administration intends to levy against Iran, but reportedly asked them to keep a low media profile and to "act responsibly."

Today Mullen will meet his Israeli equivalent, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, with whom he reportedly enjoys a close working relationship. Mullen and Ashkenazi met several weeks ago at a NATO summit in Brussels and on several other occasions over the past year, and speak regularly by phone.

Mullen will meet with Deputy Chief of Staff Benny Gantz tomorrow, as well as Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and Amir Eshel, head of the army’s Planning and Policy Directorate. Mullen will also meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for talks on Iran and on maintaining Israel’s "qualitative edge" over other regional military forces. Mullen is arriving in Tel Aviv from Egypt and will be continuing to Jordan.

Parallel to discussions with the Netanyahu administration, the U.S. is also ramping up pressure on Israel’s Arab neighbors over Iran as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Saudi Arabia and the Qatar this week.

As Clinton departed for a three-day trip to the Gulf, U.S. officials hinted Saturday that one way Saudi Arabia could help diplomatically would be to offer China guarantees it would meet Chinese oil requirements, a step that might ease Beijing’s reluctance to impose further sanctions on Iran.

China, which wields a veto on the Security Council, has lucrative commercial relationships with Iran and has worked to dilute previous sanctions resolutions.

"We believe that all countries have a part to play in helping to sharpen the question for Iran," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told reporters as Clinton began her trip, saying Saudi Arabia and China have recently increased their diplomatic and commercial contacts. "We would expect them (the Saudis) to use these visits, to use their relationships, in ways that can help increase the pressure that Iran would feel," he added.

Clinton’s spokesman Philip Crowley said the chief US diplomat will also discuss Iran with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "We obviously need to have Turkey’s support as we move forward and contemplate particular actions on the pressure track," Crowley said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to visit Iran next week to push for a diplomatic solution to the stand-off over Iran’s refusal to curb its uranium enrichment program.

Turkey, the only NATO member that neighbors Iran, insists the row should be resolved through dialogue, arguing that economic sanctions or military action against Iran would have a damaging impact on the whole region.

Israel, meanwhile, is focusing on Russia in its efforts for new sanctions on Tehran, a high-ranking Israeli official said, and Netanyahu’s upcoming trip to Moscow will be heavily dedicated to the issue. Netanyahu will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tomorrow and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the following day.

Russia is believed to support sanctions targeting governmental bodies directly involved in Iran’s nuclear program, but not those aimed at striking the country’s economy as a whole. "If Russia agrees to sanctions, China will find itself alone and may be forced to line up with the Western powers," the Israeli official said. "That’s why persuading the Russian leadership is so important."

Netanyahu is expected to try to convince Russian leaders to implement "crippling sanctions" against Tehran, and to receive assurances that the Kremlin is committed to freeze its supply of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

A high-level U.S. delegation will visit Tel Aviv next week for strategic talks on Iran and a number of other issues. In contrast to the original plans, talks will not be held between Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but will instead be held at the deputy-minister level.

The Israeli negotiators will be headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. The U.S. team will be led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, and include presidential advisers Dennis Ross and Daniel Shapiro and other National Security Council, Defense Department and CIA officials.