Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei Sunday, saying that a fiery speech delivered by the ayatollah, in which he vowed to continue fighting the US and Israel, proved that Tehran had no interest in curbing its support for terrorism.
The remark, made at Netanyahu’s weekly cabinet meeting, was his first response since Khamenei delivered the speech Saturday, coming in the wake of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last week that inspired talk of a more moderate Iran opening up to the West.
But the prime minister said the speech by Khamenei showed that Tehran had no interest in toning down its anti-West positions.
“If anyone thought that Iran’s wonderful concessions would bring about a change in its policy, they got a crushing response this weekend in the bellicose and defiant speech of Iranian leader Khamenei,” Netanyahu said.
Khamenei said in a speech Saturday that the nuclear agreement with major powers wouldn’t change Iran’s policy vis-a-vis the “arrogant American government,” nor would it change its policy of supporting “friends” in the region — “the oppressed people of Palestine, of Yemen, the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the oppressed people of Bahrain and sincere resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine.”
“The Iranians aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they’ll take advantage of the tens of billions of dollars they’ll receive as part of this deal in order to arm terrorists,” the prime minister said.
The nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers last week in Vienna would release billions in frozen Iranian assets as part of the incremental lifting of international sanctions.
Netanyahu has called the agreement a “historic mistake” and criticized the world powers for lifting sanctions without demanding Iran’s leaders pull back their support for terrorism.
“They said categorically that they will continue their struggle against the United States and its allies, and first among them of course Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Khamenei said a more wide-ranging agreement with America is unlikely, striking a different pose to that of moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who earlier said the Vienna accord could “step-by-step remove bricks from the wall of mistrust” between Iran and the US.
Iran has provided funds and military advisers to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s four-year war against rebels, which it accuses Gulf Arab states of arming. Tehran also funds and arms the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, as well as the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
AP contributed to this report.