White House officials agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assessment that sanctions have not set back Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, but counseled patience.
“We completely agree with the prime minister’s assessment that Iran has failed to make that choice and that is absolutely a disappointment,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday.
Netanyahu, meeting Sunday with Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, expressed skepticism about the sanctions.
“We have to be honest and say that all the diplomacy and sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota,” he told Romney.
The Obama administration has for months been making the case to Netanyahu that he should delay any plans to strike Iran until it exhausts peaceful options.
Asked about Netanyahu’s comments in a call Tuesday with reporters, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, also agreed with the Israeli leader.
“We continue to be dissatisfied, as Prime Minister Netanyahu is, with Iran’s continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” he said.
Rhodes said, however, that the sanctions were having a dire impact on Iran’s economy, and suggested more time was needed to assess whether they would move Iran’s leadership to agree to terms for greater transparency about its nuclear activities.
“What we see today is not just a unified international community, but you see sharp divisions within the Iranian political system, far more so than we have seen in many years,” Rhodes said. “And I think that is a testament to the pressure that they’re under.”
Rhodes said that what the administration has accomplished “is a steady ratcheting up the pressure that is increasing the cost for the Iranians in failing to make the right decisions. And until they do shift course, we will continue to look for ways to increase the impact.”