Iran’s foreign minister said Sunday that Jerusalem is “looking for war” and that the behavior of Israel and the United States was increasing the prospects of a conflict.
“Certainly, some people are looking for war… Israel,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told participants at the Munich Security Conference, according to the Reuters news agency.
Zarif said that Israel was violating international law by carrying out bombing raids in Syria, and called on European powers and the US to hold Israel to account for its actions.
“The risk [of war] is great. The risk will be even greater if you continue to turn a blind eye to severe violations of international law.
“Israeli behavior is putting international law on the shelf, US behavior is putting international law on the shelf,” he said.
The Iranian regime views Israel and the US as its political and spiritual arch-enemies, and its leaders regularly vow to destroy the Jewish state.
Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Until recently, Israel typically refrained from commenting on its military activities against Iran in Syria, neither confirming nor denying strikes.
Over the past two months, however, that policy of ambiguity has been largely abandoned by Israeli military and political officials, who have begun more openly discussing the Israel Defense Forces’ operations in Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for breaking Israel’s ambiguity policy regarding attacks in Syria, with critics accusing him of putting Israel’s security at risk to gain points among voters.
Zarif also said Iran remains committed to the 2015 nuclear agreement that the US unilaterally pulled out of last year, but accused Britain, France and Germany of not doing enough to ensure that Tehran sees economic benefits in sticking to the agreement.
Zarif slammed the US for its focus on Iran.
“We have long been the target of an unhealthy fixation, let’s say obsession” from the US, he said.
US Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech before the conference on Saturday, “arrogantly demanded that Europe must join the United States in undermining its own security and breaking its obligations,” Zarif charged.
The accord offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Tehran is sticking to the agreement.
But the US argues that the deal just postpones the time when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb. At the conference, Pence pushed for Europeans to end their involvement in the nuclear deal, calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining US sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said in his speech. “The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”
Zarif’s words regarding the increasing likelihood of all-out military conflict with Israel comes days after Netanyahu spoke of a joint interest in “war” in the context of the struggle against the Islamic Republic.
In a Hebrew-language video message recorded before he headed last Wednesday to the opening of a Middle East conference in Warsaw, the prime minister hailed the fact that an Israeli leader was about to sit down with senior officials from “leading Arab countries” in order to “advance the common interest of war against Iran.”
An official translation of the statement, provided by the Government Press Office, translated Hebrew phrase milhama b’Iran as “war with Iran,” when it was not clear that Netanyahu had meant literal military action.
The prime minister’s social media accounts published the statement, leading numerous people, including Zarif, to point out its ostensible belligerency.
On Saturday, Zarif rejected an accusation by Pence in his speech that Iran “openly advocates another Holocaust.”
The foreign minister told the German daily Der Spiegel that the accusation was “laughable,” according to a translation by Reuters.
“Iran has always supported the Jews. We are just against Zionists,” he insisted, adding, “The Holocaust was a disaster.”
In his speech Saturday, Pence noted that “Ayatollah Khamenei himself has said, ‘It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map.”
He said: “Yesterday, my wife Karen and I paid our solemn respects to the martyrs of the Holocaust in our very first visit to Auschwitz. One lesson of that dark chapter of human history is that when authoritarian regimes breathe out vile anti-Semitic hatreds and threats of violence, we must take them at their word. The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust.”
Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.