Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied he has been meeting European leaders to persuade them to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, explaining there was no need as economic sanctions had finished off the troubled pact anyway.
Speaking to the BBC in London, where he held meetings with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu said Iran would cave under the pressure of sanctions, which he claimed being put back in place would spell the end of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.
Referring to his stops in Britain, France, and Germany, Netanyahu said that, contrary to media reports, he was not trying “to persuade the E3 to leave the deal. That wasn’t my discussion, I said the deal was dead. It’s done. Because of the force of economic sanctions.”
Netanyahu was a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, and welcomed the Trump administration’s decision last month to withdraw from it.
Germany, Britain, France, Russia, and China, which also signed the agreement, have said they want to preserve it, and have sought to resist US pressure to put sanctions back in place. The Trump administration has said it will apply severe financial penalties on Iran and any firms that trade with it by the end of the year, forcing European companies to choose between the US market and Iran.
Asked how he will stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons without keeping the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action intact, Netanyahu responded, “In any way that’s necessary.”
The 2015 deal had lifted heavy sanctions on Iran in return for the Iranians dismantling the weapons-capable aspects of their nuclear development program.
Tehran has threatened to hike uranium enrichment immediately should the deal fall apart.
Before leaving from Germany earlier this week, Netanyahu had said “Iran and Iran” would be on the agenda during his talks with the European leaders.
The prime minister met with May on Wednesday, and earlier in the week with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angella Merkel. In addition to the nuclear deal, the prime minister also raised the subject of pushing Iranian forces out of Syria.
At a joint press conference with Macron Tuesday after a closed-door meeting between the two leaders Netanyahu said, “I didn’t ask President Macron to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran because I think it is going to collapse anyway soon under pressure from US sanctions.”
Aside from its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, Israel has also sounded the alarm on what it says is Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, where Iran is helping the Syrian regime to end an insurgency in its eighth year.
Israel says Iran is trying to establish bases in southern Syria from which to attack the Jewish state, and has vowed to use all means to foil the efforts. A number of airstrikes by Israel against Iranian targets in Syria have further raised already bellicose tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran.