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White House warns Netanyahu not to reveal Iran details

The Obama administration is urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to spill secret details of Iran nuclear talks in Congress address.

The White House is uncertain what precise details may come out but aides spent Monday frantically mobilizing after Israeli officials said that the prime minister planned to disclose sensitive details of an agreement taking shape in talks between six world powers and Iran, which has entered a delicate final stage.

Concern and anger among American officials about the nature of what Netanyahu might expose heightened already roiling tensions between the two countries. Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned about the damage such revelations might have on the negotiations and President Barack Obama himself attacked Netanyahu’s judgment.

Netanyahu is expected to use the details to bolster his argument before Congress that the deal under discussion will not prevent Iran from getting a bomb and could therefore threaten the Jewish state’s existence.

The speech, which was organized by House Republican Speaker John Boehner without the White House’s prior knowledge, has already fueled a bitter domestic political row, and the fallout from any shared intelligence details could result in a more fundamental break between Israel and the U.S.

“The release of that information would betray the trust between our allies, and it certainly is inconsistent with the behavior of trusted allies,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.

“Our likelihood of success when it comes to reaching a deal in the context of these negotiations is only at best 50-50. There are difficult decisions that need to be made by the Iranian government in terms of their willingness to sign onto this agreement. And the president has made clear that he is not going to sign a bad deal.”

Earnest also said that Obama had not watched Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC and that he doubted the president would tune in on Tuesday when he goes to Congress. In a pointed show of administration pique over the address, Vice President Joe Biden, who normally would attend, is in Guatemala.

Despite the warnings from the State Department and harsh words from the president, the White House did trie to tamp down the flaring tensions in addresses by Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power to AIPAC Monday and in delivering several administration statements of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Still, the president will not be meeting with Netanyahu as is customary, or even speak to him by phone. U.S. officials say that is because a meeting between Netanyahu and the president could be construed as an attempt by Washington to interfere in Israel’s general election on March 17.

CNN’s Elise Labott, Dana Bash and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Source: CNN (4265 Articles)
Written by Stephen Collinson