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Leaked Cables on Israel: U.S. and Israel Discussions on Iran, the IAEA and UN Security Council

(December 13, 2007)

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contained details of an October 24, 2007, meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs between an Israeli inter-agency delegation led by MFA Deputy Director General Miriam Ziv and a U.S. delegation led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Patricia McNerney. The meeting included Israeli assessments of the current situation in the IAEA and the likelihood of the UN Security Council supporting another sanctions resolution against Iran.

13 December 2007
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 003514
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2017
Classified By: Marc J. Sievers, Political Counselor. Reasons: 1.4 (b)(d).

------- SUMMARY -------

1. (S) In an October 24 meeting at the Israeli MFA, an Israeli government interagency team lead by MFA DDG (Strategic Affairs) Miriam Ziv shared its assessment of the current situation in the IAEA and UN Security Council, and the likelihood of key UNSC members supporting a third UNSC sanctions resolution on Iran. The Israeli side made the following points:

A) IAEA DG ElBaradei sees himself as playing a peacemaking role, and has surrounded himself with staff who do not wish to challenge him. The U.S. might be able to shake his confidence by working through his interlocutors, like the Egyptian and Austrian foreign ministers, and by cautioning him that his activities could hurt his reputation and that of the IAEA if Iran ultimately gets nuclear weapons capability on his watch.

B) China appears to have superseded Russia for the moment as the main problem country on the UNSC. It might be persuaded to support a third UNSC sanctions resolution if the Russians move first. We might consider playing to its sense of responsibility as a world player, and show how its interaction with Iran is undermining its reputation.

C) Russia seems to be trying to take a middle road on Iran, but is being unhelpful by saying one thing in public, and another thing in private. It will take work to secure Russian agreement on a third UNSC sanctions resolution.

D) Israel assesses the Europeans -- led by France and the UK -- as more willing than before to move forward with sanctions against Iran outside the UN. PDAS McNerney indicated that the U.S. is willing to get the best possible UNSC resolution as soon as possible. She stressed that international unity is critical in the face of a recalcitrant Iran. Kessler reviewed USG efforts to inform the IAEA DG of Iran's nuclear weapons program, and influence IAEA DG ElBaradei through his Secretariat and key staff.


2. (S) On October 24, ISN PDAS Patricia McNerney, ISN/RA Middle East Team Leader Kurt Kessler, ISN/CPI Director Tony Foley, NEA Iran Desk officer Sean Misko and embassy POL-MIL officer met at the Israeli MFA with an interagency team led by MFA DDG for Strategic Affairs, Miriam Ziv, to exchange information on Iran and its nuclear program. The Israeli team included representatives from the MFA, the Prime Minister's office, Israeli Defense Intelligence (IDI), and the Mossad. This is the third of three cables reporting on the discussions at the MFA, and concerns Israeli views about the IAEA, Russia and China. Reftels report the discussions on Iran's internal situation, the effect of sanctions on Iran, and the technical status of Iran's nuclear program. Septels will review discussions on ongoing and future counter-terror finance efforts, as well as discussions with Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) officials about Iran and the IAEA.


3. (S) On the IAEA and next steps, ISN/RA Middle East Team Leader Kurt Kessler noted that the USG has engaged the IAEA's Secretariat and concluded that work still needs to be done SIPDIS with IAEA DDG Heinonen and his staff to influence DG ElBaradei. The Secretariat needs to be strengthened vis-a-vis DG ElBaradei. Kessler noted that a USG interagency team had briefed ElBaradei in July and September, and that ElBaradei reacted predictably, asserting that there was no proof that the Iranian government had decided to run a nuclear weapons program, and that the best way forward was to work with then-Iranian nuclear negotiator Larijani. Kessler said we should try to hold ElBaradei to his statement that there must be a "confession," that Iran must come clean on its P-1 and P-2 programs in November, and must address concerns about its military programs. Kessler said the USG TEL AVIV 00003514 002 OF 003 expected that ElBaradei will make his November report as positive as possible. Kessler stressed that IAEA inspector access to any P-2 research and development site should be a requirement for resolving questions about the scope of Iran's centrifuge problem.

4. (S) The IDI officer observed that IAEA DG ElBaradei sees himself as a peacemaker akin to the Dalai Lama. He urged the U.S. to take measures to "chip away" at the staff bolstering his "supreme confidence." He indicated that the U.S. might have some success by meeting with the Egyptians and Austrians, claiming that ElBaradei meets with their foreign ministers on a weekly basis. He stressed that it would help if the U.S. and other countries explained to ElBaradei that he might embarrass the IAEA and undercut his legacy in the long run.

5. (S) PDAS McNerney noted that the U.S. would want to be in touch with UNSC capitals to reinforce the view that half measures with the IAEA will not get Iran off the hook on verification. In making our points, we would draw on ElBaradei's own statements, and stress that we gave the IAEA and Iran plenty of extra time from the UNSCR 1747 deadline before moving forward with more sanctions. McNerney noted that the USG had already engaged non-P5 UNSC capitals, and that Ambassador Schulte had taken our message to South Africa. She added that South Africa would be tough and is behind a resolution in the UN First Committee on how to address questions on nuclear compliance under Chapter 6.

6. (S) MFA DDG Ziv asked how strongly the USG desired consensus on a third resolution. She noted that Israel "paid" for consensus on UNSC 1747 with reference to a Middle Eastern Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. PDAS McNerney replied that consensus was key, and that the message of a unified world against Iran would be critical.

------------------------------------------- CHINA AND A THIRD UNSC SANCTIONS RESOLUTION -------------------------------------------

7. (S) On the Chinese, PDAS McNerney noted that it appears China is hiding behind the IAEA's Work Plan, concerned that the U.S. will keep ratcheting up sanctions and harm its business interests in Iran. China worries about Iran only in how it impacts the U.S.- China relationship. The Chinese are worried they may be caught providing weapons to Iran that make their way to Iraq and kill U.S. soldiers there. They especially do not want such news to break before the Olympics in Beijing. MFA DDG asked that the USG work closely with the GOI on a strategy for China.

8. (S) The Mossad representative wondered if Bank Melli would be included in a third UNSC resolution. PDAS McNerney said it was unclear. Although the U.S. hopes to add one or more banks, the Chinese do not want any banks referred to in UNSC sanctions resolutions.

9. (S) The IDI officer expressed frustration at the "inability" to communicate to the Chinese, stressing that they have a "different way of looking at the world." He noted, however, that China wants to be part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and that Iran is violating FATF standards. For China, it is important that their banks working with Iranian banks are following FATF rules. This might provide some leverage over the Chinese. The IDI officer said that the IDI is also trying to find links between Iran and Taiwan, or links between Iran and the Muslims in China. By casting a light on these links, he suggested this might aggravate the Chinese and sour their view of Iran.

10. (S) The Mossad representative observed that China needs energy, but also wants to be seen as a responsible world power. He assessed that if Russia changes its position, China would fall in behind Russia.

-------------------------------------------- RUSSIA AND A THIRD UNSC SANCTIONS RESOLUTION --------------------------------------------

11. (S) The Israeli MFA representative said that it was becoming clear that Russia would take a negative, public stance on Iran. He noted, however, that Russia had pledged privately that it would not supply fuel to Bushehr, and that President Putin's visit to Iran led to no breakthroughs. Russia, he said, was managing to maneuver on middle ground. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak seems to be pushing TEL AVIV 00003514 003 OF 003 Iran to meet UNSC demands. The Russians, he said, see themselves as leaders and advocates of the IAEA's Work Plan. They appear to be working closely with IAEA DG ElBaradei.

12. (S) On Russia, the IDI officer predicted that it would be difficult to corral Russia into a third UNSC resolution. Still, in the IDI's view, Russia could be bought. The Mossad representative said that the Russians have an interest in selling gas to Europe. He suggested that if the U.S. and Israel could show the Russians that sanctions could help Russia by cutting into Iranian competition on gas supply to Europe, this might help.

----------------------------------- THE EUROPEANS AND SANCTIONS ON IRAN -----------------------------------

13. (S) On France, the MFA representative said that French public statements suggest that the U.S. enjoys support within France's political leadership and bureaucracy on the Iran nuclear issue.

14. (S) Discussion then turned to the rest of the Europeans. The MFA representative said that the EU has expanded its lists of sanctionable entities, and that France was planning to push for further expansion, and expected that Britain would support it. France, he reported, is not worried about the Germans, and believes that the Germans will go along with them at the end of the day. The French are more concerned, he said, about the "quiet EU members." Sarkozy, he said, must be careful not to get too far out ahead of the European public.

15. (S) The Mossad representative observed that the Europeans are very hesitant to apply sanctions, especially Italy and Austria. The MFA representative noted that Norway -- while not being an EU member -- was also problematic when it came to sanctions.

16. (U) This cable has not been reviewed by ISN PDAS McNerney.

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Sources: Wikileaks