Katz urges Western-Arab coalition to confront Iran over nuclear-capable missiles

After UK, France, and Germany warn UN chief about Iranian delivery systems, foreign minister says now is ‘decisive moment’; Gantz calls for increased sanctions on Tehran regime

Foreign Minister Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Thursday called for a military coalition of Western and Arab nations, headed by the United States, to intimidate Iran into curbing its missile development and its “aggressiveness.”

Katz was responding to a letter sent the day before by France, Germany and the United Kingdom to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which the countries warned that “Iran’s developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles” go against a UN Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles.

“The required step now is presenting an effective military threat of a Western-Arab coalition, led by the US, against the Iranian regime, in order to rein in and stop its aggressiveness,” Katz tweeted. “This is the decisive moment.”

Katz later issued a statement saying he instructed his office to present all of Tehran’s violations of the nuclear agreement at an upcoming UN Security Council meeting on the implementation of the 2015 resolution on the deal.

Opposition leader Blue and White party chief MK Benny Gantz welcomed the tri-nation letter to the UN chief but cautioned: “Unfortunately, this is not something new.”

Blue and White party chairman MK Benny Gantz speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, on December 2, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The Iranian regime engages in ongoing efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and launching capabilities,” tweeted Gantz, a former chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces. “European nations, too, understand that Iran poses a danger to world peace and to regional stability. The time has come to move beyond letters and toward actions: Impose significant sanctions on Iran.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for increased action against Iran, indicating that the recent unrest in the Islamic Republic offers an opportunity to topple the regime.

“Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say: let’s make it totter even further,” he said at the beginning of a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Lisbon, Portugal.

Ambassadors from the three European nations urged Guterres in their letter circulated Wednesday to inform the UN Security Council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The letter cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant “equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating ‘Sacred Defense Week’ marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Europeans noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program concluded “that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead.”

The letter says “France, Germany and the United Kingdom assert once again our firm conclusion that Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and related technologies is inconsistent” with the missile provision in the council resolution.

That provision urges Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But it does not require Tehran to halt such activity, and the Iranian government insists all its missile activities are legal and not nuclear-related.

Officials in the Trump administration also have said Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, something the Iranians deny.

The Security Council has scheduled a December 19 meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 resolution on the Iran nuclear deal.

During last year’s meeting, Pompeo urged the council to again ban Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and to maintain an arms embargo that is scheduled to be lifted in 2020 under the nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal in May 2018, claiming it did not go far enough in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or adequately address Iran’s missile program. Trump reimposed punishing economic sanctions on Iran, in particular targeting its oil exports, in a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing Iran to renegotiate stricter terms to the agreement.

Netanyahu has also criticized the JCPOA for being inadequate. Iran regularly threatens to destroy Israel.

But the nuclear deal is still supported by the five other parties — France, Britain, Russia and China, which are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany, which is currently serving a two-year term on the council.

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