U.S. says ready to work past deadline for Iran nuclear deal if needed

The United States said it was prepared to work past a midnight deadline into Wednesday if progress was being made towards clinching a preliminary nuclear deal between Iran and global powers.

Negotiations appeared to be bogged down on an outline agreement aimed at curbing sensitive Iranian nuclear activities, while officials cautioned that any agreement would likely be fragile and incomplete.

“Our team is evaluating where we are throughout the day and making decisions about the best path forward,” a senior State Department official said, speaking hours before the self-imposed March 31 deadline was due to expire.

“We will of course keep working if we are continuing to make progress, including into tomorrow if it’s useful to do so.”

A Western diplomat indicated that the talks were still focused on crucial sticking points.

For nearly a week, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been trying to break an impasse in the talks, which are aimed at stopping Iran from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for easing international sanctions that are crippling its economy.

But disagreements on enrichment research and the pace of lifting sanctions threatened to scupper a deal that could end a 12-year standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and reduce the risk of another Middle East war. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

“The two sticking points are the duration and the lifting of sanctions,” an Iranian official said. “The two sides are arguing about the content of the text. Generally progress has been made.”

Officials played down expectations for the talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

For days they have been trying to agree on a brief document of several pages outlining headline numbers to form the basis of a future agreement. Officials said they hoped to be able to announce something, though one Western diplomat said it would be “incomplete and kick some issues down the road”.

Officials said they were hoping to agree on some kind of declaration, while any actual preliminary understanding that is agreed might remain confidential.

It was also possible they would not agree on anything.

“We are preparing for both scenarios,” another Western diplomat said.

Officials, who were shuffling from plenaries to bilateral meetings as the midnight deadline approached, said talks on a framework accord, intended as a prelude to a comprehensive agreement by the end of June, could yet fall apart.

Speaking in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande said it would be better to have no deal than a bad deal.

A deal on Iran's nuclear program would almost certainly lift sanctions only in stages, deferring even a partial return of Iranian crude exports until at least 2016. Sanctions have halved Iran's oil exports to just over 1 million barrels per day since 2012 when oil and financial sanctions hit Iran.

Brent crude oil dropped towards $55 a barrel on Tuesday as talks entered the final day of a deal that could see the energy-rich country increase oil exports to world markets.


The real deadline in the talks, Western and Iranian officials said, was not Tuesday but June 30.

They said the main sticking points were the removal of U.N. sanctions and Iranian demands for the right to unfettered research and development into advanced nuclear centrifuges after the first 10 years of the agreement expires.

Iran said the key issue was lifting sanctions quickly.

“There will be no agreement if the sanctions issue cannot be resolved,” Majid Takhteravanchi, an Iranian negotiator, told Iran's Fars news agency. “This issue is very important for us.”

The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran's most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he believed there was a good chance of success.

“The odds are quite 'doable' if none of the parties raise the stakes at the last minute, he told reporters in Moscow before returning to Lausanne.

Both Iran and the six have floated compromise proposals, but Western officials said Tehran has recently backed away from proposals it previously indicated it could accept, such as on shipping enriched uranium stocks to Russia.

Officials said dilution of the stockpiled uranium was an option, saying that the stockpiles issue was not a dealbreaker.

The goal of the negotiations is to find a way to ensure that for at least the next 10 years Iran is at least one year away from being able to produce enough fissile material for an atomic weapon. In exchange for temporary limits on its most sensitive atomic activities, Tehran wants an end to sanctions.

Iran and the six powers have twice extended their deadline for a long-term agreement, after reaching an interim accord in Geneva in November 2013.

The U.S. Congress has warned it will consider imposing new U.S. sanctions on Iran if there is no agreement this week, giving a sense of urgency to the talks.

“With Congress, the Iranian hawks and a Middle East situation where ‎nobody's exactly getting on, I'm not convinced we'll get a second chance if this fails,” a senior Western diplomat said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any sanctions moves by the Republican-dominated Congress.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel's concern that an agreement would fall short of guaranteeing its safety.

The framework agreement would leave Iran with the capability to develop a nuclear weapon in under a year, said Netanyahu, whose country is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.

Calendar June 14-20

SAT | JUN 14


There’s really no one way to capture what life in Israel is like. This exhibit, which debuted in New York, features artists who use photography, video, sculpture and work on paper as a way to tap into the complexities and multiplicities of Israeli identity. Artists Inbal Abergil, Anisa Ashkar, Luciana Kaplun, Aim Luski, Ido Michaeli and Roee Rosen will be represented at the gallery — as will their takes on Israeli culture, politics and nationalities. Sat. 7 p.m. (opening ceremony). Through Aug. 2. Free. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961. ” target=”_blank”>hollywoodfringe.org


Ever wish your services felt more like the 1960s and your rock/folk concerts felt more like shul? Ahavat Torah has just the program for you! Led by Rabbi Miriam Hamrell with the poetry of James Taylor and Paul Simon and the rhythms of Motown and The Beatles, this Saturday morning is a mash-up of all kinds of soul and a whole lot of spirit. Sat. 10 a.m. Free. The Village Lutheran Church, 343 Church Lane, Los Angeles. (310) 362-1111. ” target=”_blank”>kindredpsirits.org.

SUN | JUN 15

“30 IS THE NEW 13”

Sometimes you have to grow old in order to grow up. Jason is all set to have a law career when passion strikes and he decides to move in with his grandma to pursue music. Low on cash, his young cousin Rhonnie suggests an adult bar mitzvah as a way to fund his album and find an agent. This new comedy with music by acclaimed playwright Suzanne Bressler has its world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Audiences can expect laughs and a new kind of coming-of-age story from this charming and talented four-person cast. Sun. 2 p.m. Through June 28. $15. The Ruby Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. MON | JUN 16


Happy 90th birthday Theo Bikel! With a career that includes the roles of Tevye and Capt. von Trapp on Broadway, an Oscar-nominated performance in “The Defiant Ones” and co-founding the Newport Folk Festival, Bikel reminds us that life should be filled to the brim. Ed Asner will serve as master of ceremonies for this musical tribute featuring Arlo Guthrie, Cantor Alberto Mizrachi, Craig Taubman and many others. Mon. 7:30 p.m. $29.45-$203.85. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111

TUE | JUN 17 


Say hello to the global singing competition making an L.A. stop. The Israeli American Council is hosting an incredible opportunity for young aspiring singers: the chance to sing their way to Israel. Twelve semifinalists will perform a live show hosted by actor Mike Burstyn, with judges Dave Koz, Craig Taubman, and other celebrities and music industry professionals. Winners will get to participate in a Birthright-style trip, where music really is the universal language. The audience will enjoy Hebrew songs, a full house band and endless potential. Tue. 7 p.m. $5. The Mark, 9320 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. THU | JUN 19


When the three Belman sisters immigrate to the United States from the Soviet Union, they can’t help but bring memories from the old country to their new one. Created and performed by Sandy Simona, this biographical piece uses multimedia to explore the things we choose to leave behind, and the things we choose to remember. With dance, live music and a language fusion of Russian, Yiddish and English, the performance is multifaceted in both form and content. Thu. 7 p.m. Two other performances on June 21 and 22. $15. Schkapf Theatre, 6567-6585 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 871-1912.

Calendar June 1 – August 30



You’ve seen the banners around the city and we’re here to confirm it: Israel’s favorite son is coming to Los Angeles. Following the triumphs and tribulations of Joseph (son of Jacob and Rachel), the musical is the collaborative effort of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Directed by Andy Blankenbuehler, the production combines pop, country and rock with a good old-fashioned Torah tale. Starring Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo. Tue. 8 p.m. Through June 22. $32.25-$140.70. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 468-1770. ” target=”_blank”>geffenplayhouse.com



Ameoba Music sponsors an intimate performance by one of our favorite Reggae Jews. Matisyahu’s most recent artistic exploration — his fifth studio album, “Akeda” — deals with love, humility, humanity, struggle and sacrifice. The musician, whose hits include “Jerusalem,” “One Day” and “King Without a Crown,” always brings a moving sound to moving topics. The program also includes a moderated discussion with vice president of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, Scott Goldman. Wed. 8 p.m. $20. The Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 765-6800. FRI | JUN 6


Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is an aspiring comedian in New York, and if that doesn’t sound tricky enough, she’s newly pregnant after a one-night-stand with a surprising suitor. Caught up in the ruckus of her mid-20s, Donna must grow up without growing old. In the film, written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Slate delivers a sweet, sassy, totally funny performance. Also starring Richard Kind and Gaby Hoffman, the ensemble is  as impressive as a cast as the characters are supportive of Donna. Fri. Various theaters and times. Check local listings. 

THU | JUN 12


Check out Israeli documentary film director Shaul Schwarz’s first feature. Schwarz, who is also a cinematographer, award-winning photographer, and contributor to Time magazine and National Geographic, follows a specific story that can’t help but be universal. Contemporary Mexican folk saints, or “Narco Saints,” are virtually patrons of illegal acts. Responsible for drug ballads that glorify and celebrate narcotics, money and violence, these Narco Saints contribute to the mainstreaming and romanticizing of bein’ bad — a cultural instinct that never seems to go away. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Fowler Museum, North Campus of UCLA, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4361. FRI | JUN 13


Good news for those who have been waiting for Mike Myers’ directorial debut. It’s here! Documenting the stellar career of music manager Shep Gordon, Myers leads audience members through a life where Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix are your friends, and Alice Cooper, Emeril Lagasse and Pink Floyd are your clients. If you miss the ’70s, or just love them from afar, you’ll enjoy the great archival footage and even better stories. Fri. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (seniors, ages 11 and under, bargain matinee). Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd, Encino. (310) 478-3836. SAT | JUN 14


There’s really no one way to capture what life in Israel is like. This exhibit, which debuted in New York, features artists who use photography, video, sculpture and work on paper as a way to tap into the complexities and multiplicities of Israeli identity. Artists Inbal Abergil, Anisa Ashkar, Luciana Kaplun, Aim Luski, Ido Michaeli and Rosee Rosen will be represented at the gallery — as will their takes on Israeli culture, politics and nationalities. Sat. 7 p.m. (opening ceremony). Through Aug. 2. Free. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961. ” target=”_blank”>kindredspirits.org.

MON | JUN 16


Happy 90th birthday, Theodore Bikel! Touting a career that includes the roles of Tevye and Captain von Trapp on Broadway, an Oscar-nominated performance in “The Defiant Ones” and co-founding the Newport Folk Festival, Bikel reminds us that life should be filled to the brim. Ed Asner will serve as master of ceremonies for this musical tribute featuring Arlo Guthrie, Cantor Alberto Mizrachi, Craig Taubman and many others. Mon. 7:30 p.m. $29.45-$203.85. Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-0111.

SUN | JUN 22


A little summer piano never hurt anyone, especially when there’s talent like Schlosberg’s. With favorable reviews from both the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, the former soloist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will play Bach, Debussy and a West Coast premiere of Augusta Read Thomas. In 2000 he was the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship in piano at Tanglewood, and today, you can hear why. Sun. 6 p.m. Free. Bing Theater, LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6234. FRI | JUN 27


In the world of new, fresh-faced artistic renovators, Schrag does not disappoint. Already established as an autobiographical cartoonist and writer for shows such as “The L Word” and “How To Make It In America,” the California native has a debut novel that is not only insightfully funny but hugely relevant. “Adam” tells the story of a young man caught up in frank and progressive New York City, where gay marriage demonstrations and transgender rights leave plenty of room for an awkward teenager to learn about love and lies, and the stuff in between. Fri. 7:30 p.m. Free. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 660-1175. SAT | JUN 28


Ira Glass, host of “This American Life,” took his radio show to television, and is now bringing it to the stage. At the core is storytelling: mostly true stories of real people, centered around one theme. Joining Glass’ aural contributions are dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, bringing audiences a sort of radio narrative cabaret. Whether you feel your radio-listening needs more movement or your dance-viewing could use more spoken word, this performance will inspire a new appreciation for what can happen on a stage. Sat. 10 p.m. $38.15-$78.10. Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310)450-5183. THU | JUL 10


Joan Rivers is at it again, thank goodness. Following her New York Times best-seller, “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me,” this book found its footing when Rivers’ daughter Melissa gave her a diary for a gift. Feeling the pressure — many famous people have published diaries — Rivers has certainly pulled out all the stops. Sometimes it’s insights on everyday life, and other times it’s an anecdote only a diva could dish. Regardless, it’s Joan. Thu. 6:30 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble at The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. ” target=”_blank”>hollywoodbowl.com.

WED | JUL 16


In her new memoir, “I Said Yes to Everything,” the Academy Award winner chronicles a life filled with just as much drama onscreen as off. Starring in such films as “Valley of the Dolls” and “Shampoo,” Grant refused to testify against her husband Arnold Manoff before the House of Un-American Activities Committee, which then  put her on the Hollywood blacklist for 12 years. But Grant didn’t let a little politics get her down. After success as an actress, she made a name for herself as a director of both stage and screen, eventually becoming the first woman to win the Director’s Guild of America Award. Channel your inner Grant and say yes to this book. Wed. 7 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble at The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 525-0270. SAT | JUL 26


Put on your Hora shoes and grab a partner! The Music Center and Grand Park partner up with the Dizzy Feet Foundation, an organization co-founded by renowned artist and dancer Adam Shankman, for the West Coast’s flagship celebration of National Dance Day. Experts and amateurs alike are invited to join in the hoopla — learning from esteemed dance companies and viewing a dance film screening after sunset. Maybe you’ll choose to hip hop, maybe you’ll choose to tap; but definitely choose to dance. Sat. 10 a.m. Free. Grand Park, 227 N. Spring St., Los Angeles. (213) 972-8080. TUE | AUG 12


If you didn’t make it to Sochi this past winter, don’t panic. Conductor Leonard Slatkin is bringing an all-Russian musical program to Hollywood. Slatkin, the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and a tenured music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, will lead the L.A. Philharmonic in Glinka, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov. Violinist Gil Shaham, recipient of the 2008 Avery Fisher Award, will be featured. It will be an evening of colorful, rich drama — Russian to the core. Tue. 8 p.m. $11.10-$118.10. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000. SUN | AUG 17


Front-man Adam Duritz and the rest of the gang are flying in for a little song and nostalgia. Whether you experienced their hits in real time during the ’90s or are fans after the fact, the upbeat rock band can guarantee a funky rhythm and clever lyrics. Hits include “Mr. Jones,” “Accidentally in Love” from the movie “Shrek” and that fun cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Sun. 7 p.m. $35-$75. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-5857.

Rouhani says will present ‘true face of Iran’ at U.N.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday he would use his visit to the United Nations this week to present the “true face of Iran” and to pursue talks and cooperation with the West to end Iran's nuclear dispute.

A moderate conservative elected in June, Rouhani was speaking shortly before a five-day trip Western powers hope will show a new readiness on Tehran's part to strike a deal on a nuclear program they fear could yield an atomic bomb.

Iran has repeatedly stated its nuclear activities are peaceful, a message it sought to emphasize on Monday with the phased transfer to Iranian engineers of its only nuclear power plant from its Russian contractors.

“Unfortunately in recent years the face of Iran, a great and civilized nation, has been presented in another way,” Rouhani said, according to comments published on his official website. “I and my colleagues will take the opportunity to present the true face of Iran as a cultured and peace-loving country,”

Rouhani did not make clear who he blames for any distortion of Iran's image. But the comments suggest he is intent on distancing himself from the controversial, outspoken approach to the West adopted by predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The United States and its allies have imposed increasing economic sanctions on Iran in recent years, partly a response to what the West regards as Tehran's failure to open its nuclear program to international inspection. Ahmadinejad had also raised concern with comments on the Holocaust and homosexuality.

Israel has made it clear it could mount a strike against Iran if it felt Tehran were close to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator under reformist president Mohammad Khatami, criticized the West over sanctions he said had inflicted suffering on Iranians.

“On this trip, I will try to deliver the voice of the oppressed people of Iran to the world and we should say that sanctions are an illegal and unacceptable path,” he told journalists before leaving, his official website reported.

“The West should opt for the path of talks and cooperation and consider mutual interests,” he said.


Rouhani has vowed to improve Iran's ailing economy, which has suffered deeply from embargoes.

Last week Rouhani's tone was endorsed by Iran's most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spoke of “heroic flexibility”, suggesting a new willingness to engage in diplomacy with Iran's adversaries.

U.S. officials have left open the possibility that U.S. President Barack Obama and Rouhani could meet on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting.

Iran's foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was set to meet the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, formally starting the new era of negotiations between the two sides.

An unnamed source close to Iran's negotiators was quoted by the state news agency, IRNA, as saying talks between the two parties had been “completely transformed” by Rouhani's election.

“This is a new game and it will have new rules and the aim is to reach common points of agreement between both sides,” the source was quoted as saying.

Rouhani described the transfer of the Bushehr nuclear power plant from its Russian engineers as a “blessed event”

Iran's nuclear energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Tehran was in talks with Moscow about the construction of more such plants.

Russian experts would remain at the plant under an agreement between the two sides before it is transferred completely to Iran, ISNA news agency quoted him as saying, describing it as an “interim” phase that could last two years.

Bushehr is not considered a major proliferation risk by Western states, whose fears are focused on sites where Iran has defied global pressure by enriching uranium beyond levels needed to fuel power plants.

Reporting by Marcus George, Editing by William Maclean and Ralph Boulton

David Suissa: On bombing Iran

“The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. … The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

Those powerful and unambiguous words were spoken by presidential candidate Barack Obama at the 2008 AIPAC convention. 

Since then, the danger from Iran has only gotten more “grave” as the regime has moved significantly closer to its nuclear dream.

How urgent is the threat? As Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, recently wrote in the Atlantic: “That Iran’s nuclear challenge poses the most urgent threat to peace and security today is widely agreed across the national security community.”

Allison quotes former Mossad head Efraim Halevy saying that “Israel has long believed that mid-2013 would be an hour of decision in its dealings with Iran,” while Henry Kissinger warned that “we are in the last year where you can say a negotiation can conceivably succeed. … If nothing happens, the president will have to make some really tough decisions.”

We’ve seen how Iran has been resolute in its mission to become a nuclear power. But what about President Obama’s mission to “eliminate this threat”?

The president has done an admirable job of rallying the global community to enforce tough economic sanctions on Iran. The problem is that these sanctions haven’t convinced the Iranian regime to stop or end its nuclear program.

I’m no expert on centrifuges and uranium enrichment, but I do know something about human nature. When a bad guy shows you his evil intentions, it’s best to assume the worst, especially when the stakes are so high.

But instead of assuming the worst, we’ve been hoping for the best.

In particular, we’ve hoped that the sanctions we’ve imposed on Iran are tough enough to induce its leaders to abandon their dream of ruling the region and bringing Islamic glory back to Persia. That’s a big hope.

The latest instance of wishful thinking is that Iran’s new, more “moderate” president, Hassan Rohani, will decide that the bomb is really not worth all the tsuris and, voila, no more nuclear threat!

White House spokesman Jay Carney put it a little more diplomatically:

“The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States.”

Yes, and should Hamas choose to reform its anti-Semitic charter and seek Israeli investment to build a Riviera on the Gaza coast, it will find many willing partners.

Remember, Rohani is the same sneaky guy who “struck a conciliatory posture as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator under another reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, while presiding over the secret advance of the nuclear program,” as international jurist Irwin Cotler wrote recently.

Cotler even quotes Rohani boasting about it: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan [a crucial nuclear site]. In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.”

Well, it looks like the shmoozing mullah is at it again, charming the West with wily words of reason while buying Iran more time to “complete the work.”

If the Obama administration was looking for an excuse to kick the can down the road and avoid making tough decisions, it certainly found it in Rohani.

So, this is where things stand: Even as Secretary of State John Kerry invests enormous energy trying to create a Palestinian state that he hopes won’t become another terror regime, a real terror regime dedicated to Israel’s destruction is continuing its headlong push for a nuclear bomb.

Is there anything the United States can do to get Iran’s attention, short of bombing its nuclear facilities?

I heard a good answer the other day from a prominent Jewish leader.

During a recent visit to the Jewish Journal offices, American Jewish Committee head David Harris explained that in this game of high-stakes poker, the crucial thing is to show Iran that you’re not bluffing — that you’re deadly serious about preventing a nuclear weapon. 

His idea? Explode a bunker-buster bomb — the kind of weapon the United States would use to take out the nuclear facilities — as a military “exercise,” and make sure everyone knows about it.

Could the move backfire and rally the Iranian people and the Shiite world behind the Persian regime? Sure, there are always risks, and the Iranian crisis has always been about picking the best of bad options.  

But here’s the essential point: An Iranian nuclear bomb is a deadly threat to Israel and the world. You can make all the tough speeches you want, and impose all the tough sanctions, but in the end, until the bad guy sees that you really mean business, he won’t take you seriously.

I think they call that human nature.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Iran, U.S. waiting for other side to make nuclear compromise

The presidency of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani has opened a window of opportunity in Iran's delicate nuclear diplomacy with the West but Tehran-watchers say that window could close as each side waits for the other to make the first move.

Cautious optimism about talks between Iran and six world powers due to restart in September is a stark contrast to the gloom over on-off negotiations under eight years of previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In that time, ever more stringent U.N., U.S. and European Union sanctions on Iran's energy, shipping and banking sectors have helped weaken its currency, contributed to a steep rise in inflation and nearly halved oil exports since 2011.

Meanwhile the Islamic Republic has continued to enrich uranium, edging towards Israel's “red line” after which it says it will launch military strikes on Iranian facilities.

The leadership of Rouhani, who defeated more conservative rivals in a June 14 election with just over 50 percent of the vote, appears to offer the prospect of an alternative to the worst case scenario.

“We are prepared, seriously and without wasting time, to enter negotiations which are serious and substantive with the other side,” Rouhani said at his first news conference as president on Tuesday, and in answer to a question did not rule out direct talks with the United States.

The United States, which has said it would be a “willing partner” if Iran were serious about resolving the problem peacefully, was careful in its response.

“There are steps they need to take to meet their international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, and the ball is in their court,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.


The fact that Rouhani has been able to reach out to Washington even in a limited way indicates he has at least the tacit support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran's complex and often opaque power structure.

Khamenei has publicly voiced scepticism of the West's willingness to compromise, but for now appears to be giving Rouhani room to make a deal. If there is a lack of progress, that could easily change.

Western powers must demonstrate that they are willing to engage or Rouhani's ability to negotiate might be undercut by conservative elements at home, said Dina Esfandiary, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“If faced with inertia or a blind insistence on increasing sanctions, then hardliners will discredit him and Iran will revert back to a policy of resistance,” Esfandiary told Reuters.

Rouhani's key appointment so far has been Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister. Zarif has been involved in back-channel talks and behind-the-scenes negotiations with the United States dating back to the arms-for-hostages deal of the 1980s, and has had contacts with top U.S. officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

A new head of the Supreme National Security Council, who has traditionally acted as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, has yet to be appointed. The delay has led some Iran-watchers to speculate Rouhani may want to the bring the job of nuclear negotiator under the foreign ministry, giving an even stronger signal that he wants to streamline the talks process.

The basis of a deal is just about visible.

The two governments appear closer to holding direct talks than they have been in many years, perhaps even reviving the idea of a “grand bargain” to resolve all the issues between them dating back to the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Rouhani has signalled he would be willing to allow more transparency in Tehran's nuclear activities in return for the acceptance of Iran's right to enrich for peaceful purposes.


But both the United States and Iran appear to be waiting for the other side to make the first big concession, which is likely to stall any breakthrough.

Rouhani said on Tuesday Iran retained the “right” to enrich uranium, a position that has scuttled past talks and is likely to be a sticking point again.

World powers have demanded Iran cease the enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent and U.N. Security Council resolutions require Iran to suspend all enrichment.

“It was always going to be unlikely that Iran would happily give up enrichment – the Islamic Republic of Iran has painted itself into a corner by elevating the issue to one of national resistance and pride,” Esfandiary said.

And there are those on both sides arguing for their government to take a tougher stance.

Some in the United States believe it is the strict sanctions that have brought about Iran's new willingness to negotiate and the opportunity should not be lost to press the advantage home.

A large majority of U.S. senators urged President Barack Obama in a letter this week to step up sanctions to strengthen Washington's hand in talks. The House of Representatives also passed a bill aiming to choke off Iranian oil exports altogether last week. The full Senate is expected to debate the bill after the summer recess.

Rouhani blamed what he called a “war-mongering group” in U.S. Congress that he said was doing the bidding of Iran's sworn foe Israel.

“The key issue remains the insistence in both camps that the other side must make the first move,” said Jamie Ingram, Middle East analyst at IHS Country Risk.

“There is inherent mistrust between the U.S. and Iran and each are reticent to make any firm commitments on the back of what they fear may just be 'rhetoric',” he told Reuters.

“I think there is some willingness in the Obama administration which sees the potential to make a massive achievement in its final term – conversely, they will be wary of being seen to make a huge mistake.”

Additional reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Rohani or no Rohani, we must increase the pressure on Iran

Before the election of President Hassan Rouhani , Iran’s centrifuges were spinning at an unprecedented pace.  After his election, they continue to not only spin, but multiply.  In response, the United States must once again deliver a firm message to Tehran: Halt your illicit nuclear program or face isolation and financial ruin.  Although international sanctions over its illicit nuclear program have sent its economy into a tailspin, the ruling elite — from President Rouhani to Supreme Leader Khameni — remain undeterred

The May report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showcases Iran’s failure to abide by its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran continues to grow its stockpiles of near-20 percent enriched uranium, approaching levels where it could rapidly seek a military breakout, developing a nuclear weapon.  It is now installing advanced centrifuges that could quadruple the pace of nuclear enrichment.  Moreover, a heavy water reactor facility at Arak, which could provide an easier alternative to a plutonium-based nuclear weapon, is nearing completion. And Iran has taken great pains to sanitize the Parchin military site where suspected nuclear testing took place, stonewalling IAEA efforts to gain access along the way.  Action-by-action, Iran is becoming a greater-and-greater threat to the United States and our allies, including Israel. 

[More on Iran: House overwhelmingly votes to add new sanctions]

In Rouhani, we find a man who is intimately familiar with the secret construction of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities in Arak, Natanz and Isfahan, which weren't publicly exposed until 2002.  In 2003, Rouhani took charge as Iran's lead nuclear negotiator — negotiations which gave Iran time to complete its uranium conversion plant and to rapidly increase its number of centrifuges.  During his presidential campaign, Rouhani boasted that during his tenure as negotiator, Iran didn't suspend enrichment — on the contrary, he said, “we completed the program.”

As the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have worked closely with Ranking Member Eliot Engel of New York in securing House of Representatives passage this week of bipartisan legislation that will significantly strengthen the impact of existing sanctions on Iran for its continued resistance.  The objective is to prevent Iran from “completing the program.” 

The Iranian mullahs have consistently demonstrated that they place a higher premium on their nuclear quest than the economic well-being of their people. Enactment of our legislation, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, along with robust implementation and enforcement, is needed to greatly increase the costs to Iran for its ongoing nuclear pursuits.  We have no time to spare.  An Iranian nuclear weapon would trigger a regional arms race in the Middle East and beyond, jeopardizing American security and economic interests. Iran already engages in heavy-handed repression at home and exports terror abroad.  Imagine its behavior if emboldened by nuclear weapons.  It is clear that preventing an Iranian bomb, not containing it, is the only viable option.

Our legislation  is intended to strike a crippling economic blow to the Iranian regime, eliminating sources of foreign funding, restricting access to international commerce, and reducing oil exports by an additional million barrels per day. The bill will apply stiffer penalties to Iranian human rights violators and weapons proliferators; it also targets those who support their wrongdoing.  By bringing the full weight of U.S. pressure to bear, Congress can both deny the regime the ability to continue its destructive polices, and compel the Iranians to abandon their nuclear goals. 

However, the window for a solution is rapidly shrinking.  We cannot afford to let the Iranian regime stall the international community with open-ended negotiations.  Regardless of who is president in Iran, enactment of the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act is a necessary step in compelling Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and reducing the threat to the U.S. and our allies. 

Royce is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  He represents California’s 39th congressional district, consisting of Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County.

Iran moves to speed up nuclear program despite sanctions

Iran is increasing the number of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges installed at its Natanz underground plant, despite tightening international sanctions aimed at stopping Tehran's nuclear progress, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more efficient than the erratic 1970s era IR-1 machines it now uses, but introducing new models has been dogged by technical hurdles and difficulty in obtaining key parts abroad.

If launched and operated successfully, the new machines would enable the Islamic state to sharply speed up sensitive atomic activity which it says is for peaceful energy purposes but which the West fears may be aimed at building nuclear bombs.

“It is clear Iran can build them. The question is how many and how good are they,” one Western envoy said.

The planned deployment of next generation centrifuges underlines Iran's refusal to bow to pressure to curb its nuclear program, and may further complicate efforts to resolve the dispute diplomatically and avoid a spiral into war.

Iran announced early last month that it would build about 3,000 advanced centrifuges. But experts and diplomats said it was unclear whether it had the capability and materials needed to make so many, and also to run them smoothly.

Although still far from the target number, one diplomatic source estimated that roughly 500-600 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had now been put in place at the Natanz enrichment facility in central Iran.

That compares with 180 two months ago, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog's latest report on Iran, issued in February. At the same time, Iran had more than 12,000 old-generation centrifuges installed at Natanz, but not all were enriching.

Two other envoys in Vienna, where the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, also said the number of installed IR-2m machines was growing but they did not have details. The next IAEA report on Iran is expected in late May.

The diplomats said the new centrifuges were not yet operating, but the increase in installation was still likely to add to Western alarm over Iran's nuclear advances. Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to increase the fissile concentration.

How many Iran can make depends upon whether they have all the parts and materials they need, nuclear expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank said: “It is possible that they have accumulated an inventory of these things.”


Iran says it is enriching uranium to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants, but the material can also provide the core of a nuclear bomb if processed to a high fissile level and the West wants it to suspend the work.

Talks between Iran and world powers this month failed to yield a diplomatic breakthrough, and the United States and Israel, widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, have not ruled out military action to prevent Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons.

If hundreds of new centrifuges had now been installed, “it indicates that Iran has made a significant breakthrough both in mastering the technology and in acquiring the raw materials,” said nuclear expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.

“This development will be of major concern to countries that are worried about Iran's growing ability to quickly produce nuclear weapons.”

Iran had previously been believed to face a shortage of the high strength metals necessary to produce the new centrifuges in large numbers but it might have been able to obtain them on the black market, Fitzpatrick added.

One of the Vienna-based diplomats said the IR-2m machine was designed to reduce sanctions-related problems “in that they replace some hard-to-get materials with what are in theory easier to get or make materials.”

Editing by Jon Hemming

Kerry: Obama would prefer to ‘avoid considering’ Iran strike

Secretary of State John Kerry said President Obama would prefer to avoid considering military action against Iran, but Iran's failure to seriously negotiate makes “confrontation more possible.”

Kerry, interviewed by ABC News in Doha, Qatar, during his first overseas trip in his new job, refused to discuss differences between the United States and Israel over “red lines” that could trigger a military strike.

“I’m not going to get into red lines and timing publicly except to reiterate what the president has said again and again, which is he prefers to have a diplomatic solution,” Kerry said.

“He would like to see the P5+1 process, the negotiation process, be able to work, and avoid any consideration of any military action,” Kerry said, referring to the major powers negotiating with Iran.

Kerry said he expected a serious proposal from the Iranians when they meet with representatives from the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain in Istanbul later this month.

“If they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or are prepared to actually resolve this, obviously, the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible,” he said.

In a separate interview with NPR, Kerry said Egypt's role in brokering last November's cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and keeping the peace on its border with Israel informed his decision to release $190 million in assistance funds to the Egyptians. That decision was made over the objections of some in Congress who are concerned about the course that Egypt's Islamist government is taking.

“Egypt has been — was critical in helping to bring out peace in the Gaza Strip,” Kerry said. “President [Mohamed] Morsi personally intervened. President Morsi has personally helped to make sure that that peace has held, and he is cooperating with Israel on the security in the Sinai and cooperating with Israel in terms of extremism and intelligence.”

“So for the American people, the amount of money that we’re investing in Egypt compared to its importance to us in the region for stability, for peace, for the future possibilities, is minuscule,” he said.

U.N. watchdog: New centrifuges at Natanz advance Iran toward nuclear weapon

Iran has installed centrifuges at its largest nuclear enrichment plant that could be used to produce radioactive material for a nuclear weapon, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report Thursday claiming the Islamic Republic had recently installed 180 advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its plant in Natanz.

According to the report circulated among its 35-nation members, the centrifuges can produce between three to five times more material than the ones now being used there.

Israel said the report was evidence that Iran is continuing to “advance swiftly towards the red line that the prime minister drew in his speech at the United Nations.” The British Foreign Office said the IAEA's findings were cause for “serious concern.”

Tehran claims its nuclear program is needed for peaceful purposes.

UN inspectors see new centrifuges at Iran nuclear site, diplomat says

U.N. nuclear inspectors have seen a small number of advanced centrifuges at an uranium enrichment plant where Iran has said it will install and operate them, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Iran's atomic energy chief said it had started installing a new generation of machines for refining uranium at the Natanz plant, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a dispute over its nuclear work.

The diplomatic source, who declined to be identified, suggested the centrifuges were positioned for installation at the Natanz facility. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regularly visits Iranian nuclear sites, including Natanz.

Iran had already told the IAEA that it planned to introduce new, so-called IR2-m centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz – a step that could significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or, if refined to a high degree, provide material for bombs, which the West suspects is Tehran's real purpose – something Iran strenuously denies.

If deployed successfully, new-generation centrifuges could refine uranium several times faster than the model Iran now has.

It was not clear how many of the new centrifuges Iran aimed to install at Natanz, which is designed for tens of thousands; an IAEA note to member states on Jan. 31 implied that it could be up to 3,000 or so.

Iran's atomic energy chief, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said on Wednesday the new machines were specifically geared for lower-grade enrichment of uranium to below 5 percent purity.

Iran has been refining some uranium up to a concentration of 20 percent fissile material, only a short technical step from weapons grade of 90 percent.

It is this stockpile that has prompted Israel and the United States to warn that they will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran being able to build a nuclear warhead.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Report: Iran nearly done installing centrifuges at nuclear plant

Iran appears to be nearly finished installing centrifuges at one of its underground plants, drawing it still closer to making weapons-grade uranium.

Reuters quoted Western diplomats who said they have heard indications that Iran finished putting in place the remaining uranium centrifuges but had not starting running them yet.

According to the unnamed diplomats, while there may be more centrifuges located deep inside a mountain at its Fordow plant, the preparations needed to operate them have not been completed.

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in its last report, in August, said that Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordow to 2,140.

Netanyahu praises EU for new Iran sanctions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the European Union for adopting new sanctions against Iran.

Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem with European Union member state ambassadors, called the sanctions “tough” and said Iran was “the greatest threat to peace in our time.”

“These sanctions are hitting the Iranian economy hard, (but) they haven’t yet rolled back the Iranian program. We'll know that they're achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back,” he said.

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council on Monday adopted new economic sanctions against Iran that hit its banking, shipping and industrial areas.

“The Council reiterates its serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear program and the urgent need for Iran to comply with all its international obligations, including full implementation by Iran of UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors' Resolutions,” said a statement issued Monday by the foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries that referred to the United Nations Security Council and the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The Council condemns the continuing production of enriched uranium and expansion of Iran's enrichment capacity, including at the Fordow site.”

The new sanctions come on top of an oil embargo imposed by the European Union earlier this year and new economic sanctions levied by the United States.

U.S. should heed call for a clear Iranian red line

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a persuasive case at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday for a clear red line to ward off Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Time is running out and the United States should listen to the Israeli leader and draw a clear line for Tehran.
Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly showed he was willing to draw the line on Iran’s enriched uranium production and put the focus on President Obama’s refusal to do that so far.
“At stake is the future of the world,” Netanyahu said. “Nothing could imperil our common future more than arming Iran with nuclear weapons.
“Just imagine their long-range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs. Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who would be safe in Europe? Who would be safe in America?  Who would be safe any where?”
The Prime Minister said that Iran had completed the first phase of its uranium enrichment program, which took several years, but that the second phase would be completed by spring or summer of next year. The third and final phase, he said, would take only months or even weeks, giving Iran enough highly enriched uranium for its first nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu said the world had to draw a line and take military action if Iran reached the end of the second phase. 
“The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target,” he said.  “I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.”
So without saying so explicitly, Israel’s prime minister implied that Israel would not act unilaterally with a military response until Iran reached the red line he outlined and would give diplomacy and sanctions until next year, after U.S. elections, to force Iran to change course.
In his own address to the U.N. Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged the seriousness of the Iranian nuclear program.
“Make no mistake, a nuclear armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” the President said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
But the President did not spell out what doing “what we must” entails or what point in the Iranian nuclear program the United States might take military action to stop it. 
The President continues to put too much reliance on diplomacy and sanctions. Congress has insisted on increasingly harsh sanctions on Iran, often in the face of stiff opposition from the Obama Administration. 
Even the strongest sanctions will not make a difference if the Administration doesn’t strictly and universally enforce them.  As has been widely reported, the Administration has routinely exempted allies and important trading partners from compliance. And as Andrew Davenport and Ilan Berman said in their Washington Post column Thursday, the current U.S. sanctions policy is “simultaneously extensive and flimsy.”  In only a few cases have violators faced sanctions.
Despite their weaknesses, the current U.S. and European Union sanctions have impacted the Iranian economy. Iran’s oil exports have declined by more than 50 percent in the past year and bread, meat and electricity prices have soared. But the Mullahs in Tehran are willing to sacrifice the well-being of Iranians while putting more and more of their nation’s resources into their nuclear program.
After declining the opportunity to meet with Netanyahu at the U.N., the President and the Prime Minister spoke by telephone Friday. While a White House statement said both men agreed on the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, no mention was made of any progress toward resolving the disagreement between Israel and the U.S. on issuing an ultimatum to Tehran.
It’s clear the current U.S. position has not slowed Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons capability. In fact, publicly available reports by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) document that Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment program. The IAEA reports that Iran doubled the number of centrifuges at Qom used for that effort in just this year.
It’s also clear that Iran is trying to cut the time to reach what Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barark calls the “zone of immunity,” where Tehran is close enough to having a weapon that it becomes immune from attack for fear of nuclear retaliation.
Diplomacy and sanctions should always be the first choice. But all of the diplomacy, all of the sanctions against Iran so far, have not slowed Iran’s program. The lack of a credible red line unfortunately has given Iran the time it needs to reach its nuclear goals. And it has been viewed by the Iranians as a sign of U.S. weakness.
The United States cannot allow Iran to threaten the world. Iran cannot reach a “zone of immunity.”  There has to be a deadline. The U.S. should join Israel in declaring a clear, unambiguous red line for Iran that must not be crossed. Such clarity is the best way to avoid war.
Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly represents Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Congress and is vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. He served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2003-2011.

Netanyahu: ‘It’s not about elections in America, but centrifuges in Iran’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dedicates much of his time to thinking about how to handle the Iranian nuclear issue, considering it a rapidly approaching existential threat. Not surprisingly, it was also the main topic of a wide-ranging interview he gave with Israel Hayom before Rosh Hashanah. Here is what the Israeli leader had to say:

IH: What did you say, and what did you hear, in your recent conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama?

Benjamin Netanyahu: “It was a good conversation that revolved around significant issues and our desire to prevent Iran from progressing any further with their military nuclear program. It is natural to have disagreements. Israel is closer [to Iran] and more vulnerable. The U.S. is big, far away, and less vulnerable. Naturally we have diverging views on certain things. In the face of a threat like Iran’s nuclear armament, I believe that it is important that the international community set a clear red line. Iran has taken obvious steps in recent years and months toward developing nuclear weapons capability.”

Do you believe Obama when he says, “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons”?

“I’m certain that he means what he says, just as the Europeans mean it when they say it and the same way we mean it when we say it. But the question is how to achieve this in a practical fashion—that is what we discussed. This is the main issue affecting our future. Naturally, a prime minister should be looking out for Israel’s essential interests. I do so in conversations with world leaders and in public remarks.”

It appears as though you are currently in conflict with Obama. Is Israel in conflict with the U.S.?

“It is not a conflict. It is a question of emphasis on Israel’s interests, and that is the responsibility of the prime minister of Israel. I have been saying these things for 16 years.

“At first I was almost the only one warning against this danger, and then others joined me. I called for sanctions on Iran and I was nearly alone in that call, but then others joined me. I was the first one to demand red lines, and maybe I am alone at this time, but I believe that others will soon join me.

“A prime minister’s and a leader's duty is to insist on the things that are essential to Israel's security, even when it is not easy, and even when there is criticism, and even when there is no immediate agreement on everything.

“If, over the last 16 years, I had listened to the advice of all those people who told me that this or that is ‘unacceptable’ or that ‘now is not the right time’ or ‘wait until the circumstances shift in your favor,’ I don’t know if we would have made it this far. I was able to contribute to the establishment of a global coalition against Iran. We are encumbering Iran’s economy, but we have not yet reached the main objective: stopping Iran's nuclear program. And Iran is getting ever closer to achieving its own objective. That is why I am saying things in the most responsible, thought-out, measured way possible—to our American friends as well—that we have a common goal: stopping the Iranians.”

When you make remarks to the Americans in such a blunt way, doesn’t it cause damage?

“I’m not saying things in a blunt way, but in an honest way, just the facts. I can make nice and word things delicately, but our existence is at stake. This is our future. We’re talking about a historic junction that has profound meaning. These are not just words and I am not exaggerating. That is what I have done, and that is what I will continue to do.”

The U.S. is in the midst of an election year. There are allegations that you are intervening and impacting the elections.

“That is complete nonsense. The only thing guiding me is not the U.S. elections but the centrifuges in Iran. It is not my fault that the centrifuges aren’t more considerate of the Americans’ political timetable. If the Iranians were to hit the ‘pause’ button and stop enriching uranium and building a bomb until the end of the elections in the U.S.—then I could wait.

“But they are not waiting. They are progressing. The things that I am saying have to do with events in Iran, not events in the U.S. The desire to stop Iran is common to all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike. There is no distinction in the desire to stop this thing. It is my duty as the prime minister of Israel, when I see Iran’s nuclear program barreling forward, to say the things that I think are necessary to ensure the future of the State of Israel. It has nothing to do with American politics.”

What needs to happen for Israel to shift from talk to action?

“I don’t think that there is any point in going into that.”

How long before Iran reaches the zone of immunity?

“Every day that goes by brings Iran closer to its goal.”

Is there a disagreement with the U.S. over that assessment?

“I don’t think that there are big gaps in our assessments of the point at which Iran will complete its preparations. The question is when action needs to be taken, not so much in terms of the date, but more in terms of the process: when Iran will reach a point beyond which it will be extremely difficult to stop. Obviously our answer to that question is different from that of the U.S. because there is a difference in our capabilities. But time is running out for the U.S. too.”

Is Israel facing Iran alone?

“I am doing everything in my power to turn everyone against Iran. We are safeguarding our ability to act on our own in the face of any threat to our security and our future. The entire world is besieging Iran, financially speaking, and we should encourage that.

“A large part of the world has enlisted to the cause and answered our call. There is an international framework to press Iran, but we still can't say that, despite all the real difficulties imposed on Iran’s economy, it is stopping Iranian aspirations. I see both sides of the equation, but I’m not satisfied with just one.”

Is Israel prepared for an attack on the homefront?

“We are living in the missile age, which we entered during the Gulf War. There has been a decades-long gap in preparedness. An entire generation has gone by without proper homefront preparations. I take this issue very seriously, and I hold meetings on homefront preparedness every other week. I am personally involved in the matter. In the same way that I was personally involved in building the fence in Sinai [along the Israeli-Egyptian border], which has stopped infiltrators, thus, here, we are also working methodically.

“We can’t protect every point in Israel, but we can protect most of it. One of the things that has made me very happy is the fact that the Iron Dome [missile interceptor system] has become operational. It was a decision I made during my term, and the results have been good.”

“But it is important to remember this: You can protect from missiles in one way or another, but there is one thing there is no protection from: the atom bomb. The only thing that can protect us is preventing it from becoming a reality in the hands of the enemy. And, of course, we have to clarify to anyone who ever considers attacking Israel with weapons of mass destruction that he does so at his own peril.”

It looks as though housing prices in Israel have begun climbing again, despite various government measures. Will there be additional measures to bring housing prices down?

“According to the data I have, housing prices have risen by 1.8 percent since the beginning of the year. That is far less than in previous years. Prices are too high, in my opinion, and we are working to increase the supply of apartments. The current supply stands at 80,000 units. That is why the sharp price hike has leveled out. But we want more. Opening up the main routes on the highways will help. What was once considered to be in the periphery will no longer be in the periphery. Using the freeway you can get [to central Israel] in a short time and you can afford a house with a yard. You have to leave Gush Dan [central Israel] and then you can see the revolution. Even inside Gush Dan you can see the revolution.”

You have been blamed for the collapsing communications market: for involvement, or inaction, in saving Channel 10 and the collapse of the Maariv newspaper.

“Funny that no such allegations were made when industrial plants were forced to close down. I don't think that we, as a government, can or should intervene in the communications market. If we do we will be accused of the opposite—people will say that we are controlling the media by providing assistance to this or that media outlet. There is a real problem in the market. It is simply too small to support the number of media outlets that exist. I hope that all the channels and newspapers find a way to survive, but the government can't do everything.”

When should we expect Israeli general elections?

“Sometime in 2013.”

Read the full interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the Israel Hayom website at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=5813