Dennis Ross, who has served Republican and Democratic presidents in a number of roles, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he doubts Iran and the US will strike a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program before a July 20 deadline.
He told the panel that US officials must make clear to Iranian leaders they must give up their entire nuclear program or there will be no deal. Ross said Iran wants to reach a deal and expand its program.
Ross told the senators that if a deal is reached, US officials should discuss with their Israeli counterparts steps Washington is prepared to implement should Tehran “cheat.”
“With the Israelis, if there is a nuclear deal, we could discuss the specific steps we would take if the Iranians cheat on a deal and how we would impose consequences -- even anticipating that there might be reluctance on the part of others to hesitate in the face of violations of the agreement,” Ross said.
“We might also compensate the Israelis if there is a deal by providing more bunker-buster bombs and more tankers to make them more capable of militarily acting on their own against the Iranians in the face of cheating,” Ross said. “This would reassure the Israelis that even if we felt constrained to act militarily in the face of Iranian violations of an agreement that made a breakout possible, Israel would not be left without options.”
Panel members raised concerns outside of Iran’s atomic arsenal aims -- specifically, that Tehran is beginning to forge alliances across the Middle East.
Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he is concerned about signs that Iran’s isolation from Arab states “may be melting away as anticipation of a deal nears.”
Menendez said Iranian officials have recently been invited to a number of high-level meetings in the Middle East, and some were invited to the inauguration of the new Egyptian president.
Ross assured Menendez that US allies like Saudi Arabia remain skeptical of Iranian leaders. On Egypt, Ross said the new regime there “won’t do anything on Iran that will upset the Saudis” because “the Saudis are their primary banker right now.”