DEBKAfile Exclusive Report—
The fundamental rift on Iran between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu burst into the open Monday, April 16 when high-ranking Israeli officials close to Netanyahu directly accused the president of reneging on the US-Israeli understandings reached ahead of the Istanbul talks between the six powers and Iran on April 14.
Behind the show biz of Istanbul, they charged, the US and Iran had reached secret agreements in clandestine bilateral contacts channeled through Paris and Vienna.
The row surfaced Sunday when Netanyahu said the US and world powers by agreeing to hold more talks in Baghdad next month had given Tehran a “freebie” of five more weeks to continue enriching uranium without restrictions. By singling out the US, the prime minister aimed his comment directly at the president.
Obama’s response was fast. At a news conference ending the Western Hemisphere summit in Cartagenia, Colombia, he commented sharply: “The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a `freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.”
That is the very point on which Israel accuses the US president of playing false: time. As disclosed by debkafile on April 9, American and Israeli officials preceded the Istanbul talks with an understanding for the US to put before Iran agreed demands/concessions: Iran would be allowed to keep 1,000 centrifuges for the low-level enrichment of uranium up to 3.5 percent purity, the first time Israel had accepted the principle of Iran enriching uranium at any grade at all.
It was also agreed between Washington and Jerusalem that Iran would not be permitted to keep 20 percent enriched uranium, which is a short step before weapons-grade, in any quantity.
These understandings, known as the “1,000 principle,” were meant to represent the final upshot of the formal negotiations with Iran, a consensus to which US diplomats would aspire in as short a time possible.
In the event, the US delegation did not present any of the agreed demands – or any other – to the Iranians attending the first round of talks in Turkey.
The belated sense of being misled prompted the prime minister’s exceptionally sharp reaction.
Israeli official sources now suspect that in their secret contacts, the US has granted Iran far-reaching concessions on its nuclear program – more than Israel would find acceptable. The formal talks in Istanbul and in Baghdad on May 23 are seen as nothing but a device to screen the real business the US and Iran have already contracted on the quiet.