Warning that the P5+1 agreement unfolding in Switzerland must be stopped, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he conferred with Senate leaders about the way forward.
“I have just come from a conversation with US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Over the weekend I spoke with US Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid,” Netanyahu said at the start of today’s cabinet meeting, according to his office. “I heard from both of them about strong and continuing bipartisan support for Israel and of course this is very important.”
“I expressed to them our deep concern over the agreement being formulated with Iran in the nuclear talks,” he added. “This agreement, as it appears, confirms all of our concerns and even more so.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page that parties in the nuclear talks “have made progress in reaching acceptable solutions, but we still have to work on some important issues; the key to striking an agreement lies in this strategic choice that the other side should make: pressure and sanctions or interaction and agreement by the other side.”
Over the past few weeks, everyone from Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator to most of Iran’s legislative body to Ayatollah Khamenei himself have insisted that they will not sign a deal unless all sanctions are lifted first.
“In negotiations, both sides must show flexibility. We are ready to make a good deal for all. We wait for our counterparts’ readiness,” Zarif tweeted Saturday.
Netanyahu noted that “even as meetings proceed on this dangerous agreement, Iran’s proxies in Yemen are overrunning large sections of that country and are attempting to seize control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb straits which would affect the naval balance and the global oil supply.”
“After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincers movement in the south as well in order to take over and conquer the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous for humanity and needs to be stopped,” he said, referencing the Swiss city hosting the nuclear talks.
Even though the White House vehemently opposes two key pieces of Iran legislation — the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill and the Corker-Menendez bill to require congressional approval of a deal — Reid has repeatedly said that he’s not encouraging the Democratic caucus to vote one way or the other. Reid originally held up Menendez-Kirk at the request of the White House, yet announced Friday he’s retiring at the end of the 114th Congress. His choice for the next Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), signed on as a Corker-Menendez co-sponsor Thursday.
Congress just began a two-week spring break and is expected to take up Corker-Menendez after returning.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is heading to Israel this week.
“There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East, and I think it’s critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there,” Boehner told CNN this morning. “…And, frankly, part of my goal in going to Israel is to continue to strengthen the relationship that we have between America and Israel.”
“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” Boehner said. “And I think that the pressure that they have put on him over the last four or five years have, frankly, pushed him to the point where he had to speak up. I don’t blame him at all for speaking up.”
The “one goal” in inviting Netanyahu to speak before Congress, the speaker added, “was to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East, but for the rest of the world, including the United States.”
“The president doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to talk about the threat of radical Islam and the fact that he has no strategy to deal with it,” Boehner said. “And when you begin to see all these leaks that have — that probably came out of the White House in terms of what the Iranian deal was starting to shape up to be, there’s a lot of concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis. And I’m glad that he was here. And, frankly, the speech that he gave was the clearest speech I have heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.”
He promised to move “very quickly” on Iran sanctions if there is no deal. “Frankly, we should have kept the sanctions in place, so that we could have gotten to a real agreement. And the sanctions are going to come, and they’re going to come quick.”