If unstopped, Iran will become ‘global bully,’ Netanyahu tells top Trump aide

Visiting Jerusalem, US National Security Adviser O’Brien says Israel’s Morocco normalization deal even more remarkable than other agreements with Arab states

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 13, 2020. (courtesy US Embassy)
US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 13, 2020. (courtesy US Embassy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned that Iran could become a threat to world peace, calling for concerted international actions to stem the Tehran regime’s aggression.

“As long as Iran continues to subjugate and threaten its neighbors; as long as Iran continues to call for Israel’s destruction; as long as Iran continues to bankroll, equip and train terrorist organizations throughout the region and the world; and as long as Iran persists in its dangerous quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, we shouldn’t go back to business as usual with Iran,” he said.

“We should all unite to prevent this major threat to world peace,” he said before meeting with visiting US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

“I say world peace because today the Islamic Republic of Iran is still a nasty neighbor bully, but if unchecked, Iran tomorrow will arm itself with nuclear-tipped ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] that can target Europe and America, and it will become a global bully, which will endanger everyone.”

US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy against Iran has been widely praised across the Middle East, the prime minister continued. “When Israelis and Arabs agree on so many things, it makes sense for the world to pay attention. After all, we live in this region.”

US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from in 2018. Trump has since reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and Iran has stepped up enrichment beyond the limits of the 2015 international accord. Biden has said he would return to the deal, inked when he was vice president, only if Tehran went back to strict compliance with the agreement first, while also promising to take steps to curb the influence of the Islamic Republic’s regional proxies.

Last month, Iran’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated in a hit blamed on Israel, ramping up tensions, with Tehran promising revenge.

Netanyahu also addressed Israel’s recent US-brokered normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The deals between Israel and the Gulf states were announced over the summer, followed by Sudan in October, and Morocco on Thursday.

“This is creating enormous excitement in Israel. Israelis now are faced with a great dilemma. Where to go? Dubai or Morocco? Abu Dhabi or Morocco?” he joked. “I’m sure we’ll resolve that one. We’ll go to both,” he added.

The prime minister praised Trump not only for his Iran policies but also for his so-called Deal of the Century, which he called “the first truly realistic plan” to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have rejected the plan, which would allow Israel to annex large swaths of the West Bank.

“This is the first plan to take seriously and address Israel’s national and security interests. That’s why I think down the line it will be the only plan that will be implemented,” he said.

O’Brien, in his remarks, praised Netanyahu for his “courage” in advancing deals with four Arab countries, highlighting last week’s deal with Rabat due to the close historic ties between Morocco and the Jewish people

“As big as these other deals have been, this one is special,” he said.

O’Brien arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday for a series of meetings with Israeli officials, including Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, to whom he handed he Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

“The medal — the highest honorary award given to non-US citizens — was signed by acting US Secretary of Defense Charles Miller,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

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