Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged the United States to move forward with its threat to reimpose “snapback” sanctions on Iran.
In a meeting in Jerusalem with Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s pointman on Iran, Netanyahu urged that “in response to repeated Iranian provocations and violations…it is time to implement, now, snapback sanctions. I don’t think we can afford to wait. We should not wait for Iran to start its breakout to a nuclear weapon because when that happens it will be too late for sanctions.”
Hook is on a Middle East tour meeting with US allies seeking support for Washington’s demand of extending a 13-year UN weapons embargo on Iran set to expire in October. He visited the United Arab Emirates over the weekend.
In a May 13 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Hook warned that the embargo’s expiration would leave “the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism free to import and export combat aircraft, warships, submarines and guided missiles.”
If the UN Security Council fails to extend the embargo, the US would seek to trigger the broad array of “snapback” sanctions due to Iran’s violations of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The US abandoned that deal in 2018, triggering a series of Iranian violations in the ensuing years.
In his meeting with Hook, Netanyahu warned that the Iranian regime “deliberately deceives the international community. It lies all the time. It lies on solemn pledges and commitments that it took before the international community. It continues its secret program to develop nuclear weapons. It continues its secret program to develop the means to deliver nuclear weapons.”
He vowed that Israel would “do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” and told Hook, “I know that’s your position as well.”
Netanyahu also praised the US killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps senior commander Qassem Soleimani in January.
“Without the determination to use military force against those who plan to attack you, the danger simply grows greater and greater,” he said.
“This is a policy, Brian, that we have adopted as well. We are absolutely resolved to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in our immediate vicinity. We take repeated and forceful military action against Iran and its proxies in Syria and elsewhere if necessary,” said Netanyahu.
“And I say to the ayatollahs in Tehran, Israel will continue to take these actions necessary to prevent you from creating another terror and military front against Israel in Syria. And I say to Bashar al-Assad, you’re risking the future of your country and your regime. Israel will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi later met Hook and expressed a similar sentiment, calling on Security Council members to “sober up and support the American initiative to continue the embargo and the strong hand against Iran.”
Ashkenazi and Hook agreed that Tehran’s policies and its support for terror groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah “threaten stability in the Middle East and constitute a direct threat to Israel,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
On Sunday, during his visit to the UAE, Hook told the Associated Press that the expiring UN weapons embargo on Iran must remain in place to prevent it from “becoming the arms dealer of choice for rogue regimes and terrorist organizations around the world.”
Hook called Iran’s threats to retaliate if the embargo is extended a “mafia tactic,” and said the world should ignore it.
Iranian officials have suggested they could expel international inspectors monitoring the country’s nuclear program in response to the extension, or even withdrawal entirely from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The UN arms embargo so far has stopped Iran from purchasing fighter jets, tanks, warships and other weaponry, but has failed to halt its smuggling of weapons into war zones in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
“If we let [the embargo] expire,” said Hook, “you can be certain that what Iran has been doing in the dark, it will do in broad daylight and then some.”
US sanctions imposed since the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the NPT has created intense financial pressure on Tehran that has led to sporadic anti-government protests, including nationwide demonstrations in November that Amnesty International says saw over 300 people killed. While the Trump administration has maintained it doesn’t seek to overthrow Iran’s government, its pressure campaign has exacerbated public anger against its Shiite theocracy.
Since Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran has broken all the accord’s production limits. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iranian nuclear activity as part of the deal, says Tehran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium continues to grow.
While not at weapons-grade levels, the growing stockpile and increased production shortens the one-year timeline analysts believe Iran would need to have enough material for a nuclear weapon if it chose to pursue one. Iran long has denied seeking atomic bombs, though the IAEA previously said Iran had done work in “support of a possible military dimension to its nuclear program” that largely halted in late 2003 following the US invasion of Iraq.