A DebkaFile report.
In the last 24 hours, the approach of international talks with Iran on its nuclear program has escalated already high tensions over the issue between the Obama administration and the Israeli government and triggered the following developments:
US President Barack Obama decided to send his US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to an urgent visit to Israel Saturday, Feb. 18, for three days of talks “on regional issues including Syria and Iran.”
This unusually long trip by a top White House official over the weekend is a measure of the crisis in relations.
The visit is part of the US “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security,” according to a White House statement. It was called “the latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership.”
Such pledges no longer wash in Jerusalem, DEBKAfile’s political sources report, in light of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s strong sense of betrayal from what he sees as surreptitious US diplomacy with Iran for promoting talks that will end the promised sanctions for halting Iran’s momentum for building a nuclear weapon now in its final stages.
The existence of those back-channel exchanges and the imminence of negotiations with Iran were first disclosed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 529 of Feb. 17.
In private conversations, Netanyahu has said he feels cheated. By its actions the Obama administration leaves Israel with no recourse other than to grapple with the Iranian menace on its own, he has said, and be less sensitive to Washington’s wishes.
A bipartisan group of concerned US senators warned President Obama Friday that they would strongly oppose any proposal in talks with Iran that would allow it to continue uranium enrichment activities.
A letter signed by a dozen senators from both parties expressed concern that Iran would try to use a resumption of talks with world powers on its nuclear program to buy time and dilute international pressure on it.
“Such tactical maneuverings are a dangerous distraction and should not be tolerated,” the senators said.
Belgium-based SWIFT, which provides 10,000 banks in 210 countries with a system for moving funds around the world, said Friday that it was ready to block its network to money transfers by Iranian banks.
Expelling Iranian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication would shut down Tehran’s main avenue for doing business with the rest of the world.
Two Iranian warships sailed through Suez Canal to Mediterranean Friday on their way to Syria. Israel called their mission a provocation.
Wednesday, Netanyahu blasted Iran — and indirectly Washington — when he said in Cyprus that sanctions “haven’t worked” and that for a regime which attacks diplomats to have nuclear weapons “is something of enormous concern for the United States and for Israel.”