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October 17, 2013

Israelis Wary of Iran Nuclear Talks

by Scott Bobb

Israel remains skeptical about Iran's nuclear ambitions despite some progress reported in talks this week between world powers and Iranian envoys. Israel views an Iranian nuclear bomb as a threat to its existence and doubts Iran's claims that its nuclear aims are peaceful.

Reaction is cautious in Israel despite reports by world powers and Iran of "substantive” and "forward-looking" talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program.
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel's parliament as the talks began that economic sanctions on Iran should be maintained.
 
"It would be a historic mistake to lift the pressure now, just before the sanctions reach their goal," he said. "And particularly now, we cannot give in and must keep up the pressure."

Shlomo Brom, an analyst with Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, says Iran may be bowing to econnomic pressure brought on by the sanctions.

“It’s possible that now the Iranian perception is different and they are starting to understand that it may be that the nuclear regime, instead of being a kind of assurance for the survival of the regime, became a threat to the survival of the regime,” he said.

The Israeli government wants the sanctions maintained until Tehran ends all aspects of any nuclear weapons program including uranium enrichment. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes and it will not halt enrichment.

Mark Fitzpatrick, with London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, says these are bargaining positions.

“Iran is not going to give up all enrichment. It’s become too much part of their national psyche," he said. "So there will have to be some enrichment as part of the deal. And there will have to be some relaxation of some sanctions, not all sanctions but some.”

Israel has threatened military action if Iran's nuclear program continues unchecked.

Emily Landau, a nuclear weapons specialist with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, says pressure that is political, economic and military, is the only realistic solution.

“The combined effect of those different forms of pressure, I think, is what the international community has to hope will bring Iran to the point where they actually will want to reverse course on the nuclear realm,” she said.

She hopes Iran’s leadership will conclude that it's better to forego a military nuclear capability than to continue to suffer.