Will Racke, DCNF
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up his rhetoric against the Iran nuclear deal on Sunday, urging the U.S. to negotiate stronger terms or, failing that, withdraw from the agreement entirely.
The 2015 accord, negotiated by the Obama administration and several world powers, is a “horrible deal” that “enables Iran to keep and hide all its nuclear weapons know-how,” Netanyahu said in a briefing to foreign reporters.
The deal “has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed,” he said, according to The Associated Press, adding “if you do nothing to this deal, if you keep it as is, you will end up with Iran with a nuclear arsenal in a very short time.”
Netanyahu’s remarks come as President Donald Trump faces a May 12 deadline whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear accord. Trump, who has called the agreement “one of the worst deals” he has ever seen, has signaled he will resume the penalties — a move his top foreign policy advisers have also endorsed.
Like Trump, Netanyahu is an ardent opponent of the deal. It is not tough enough on Tehran and will not stop the regime from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, Netanhahu claims.
Newly obtained intelligence proved Iran lied about its past programs to develop nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said at a Monday presentation he gave. A trove of stolen Iranian files offers “new and conclusive proof of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years,” he said, without revealing any evidence Tehran is currently violating the terms of the nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the administration’s leading Iran hawks, backed the prime minister’s claim that the files contain previously unknown information about the extent of Tehran’s nuclear program.
But some arms control experts have disputed that assertion. Jeffrey Lewis, a former U.S. defense official and current professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, called Netanyahu’s presentation a “dog and pony show” that revealed “literally nothing new” about Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel has long viewed Iran as its primary national security threat due to the Islamic regime’s support for Hezbollah and its calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. More recently, Israel has confronted Iran over its growing military presence inside Syria, which Netanyahu’s government says it will not tolerate.
Though it has not confirmed involvement, Israel is believed to be behind recent airstrikes against military bases in Syria that killed Iranian soldiers. On Sunday, Netanyahu hinted at the possibility of further strikes, saying Israel was “prepared for any scenario.”
“We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle,” he said. “Better now than later.”
For its part, Iran has dismissed the possibility of modifying the existing nuclear deal with tougher restrictions. Tehran will walk away from the agreement if Washington does, regardless of any effort by European signatories to preserve it, Iranian officials have also said.
“Iran will not renegotiate what was agreed years ago and has been implemented,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on May 3.
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