Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday that US President Donald Trump’s speech a day earlier announcing that he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal to Congress was “brave” and warned that the European nations — the UK, France and Germany — that continue to firmly support the 2015 agreement were “burying their heads in the sand.”
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Liberman said Trump’s address on Friday, which also detailed a new, more hawkish approach toward Tehran in the non-nuclear realm, was “brave and correct,” echoing praise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who also hailed the US president’s speech as “courageous.”
Liberman said the Europeans were “burying their heads in the sand just like they did before World War II,” in response to Iran’s growing strength in the region. “When you see the crises unfolding in Europe, you see this [approach]. They prefer to escape reality.”
Moderate states in the Middle East, by contrast, said Liberman, have all recognized that Iran “presents an existential threat” if it were to acquire nuclear weapons.
On Friday, after Trump’s speech, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany said they remained committed to the nuclear deal. British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they “stand committed to its full implementation by all sides,” according to a joint statement released by May’s Downing Street office.
The leaders said they “take note of President Trump’s decision” not to recertify the deal to the US Congress and were “concerned by the possible implications.”
“The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes,” they added. “We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPoA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”
In his Saturday interview, Liberman also said that “everything that is happening in Syria is all because of Iran,” in reference to Tehran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and its involvement in the raging Syrian civil war.
“Without the Iranian regime, Hezbollah would not exist,” he said of the Lebanese terror group, an Iranian proxy, which is also heavily involved in the Syrian fighting. “Due to the lifting of sanctions [on Iran, in the framework of the nuclear deal], Iran was able to increase its support for and strengthen Hezbollah.”
The defense minister warned against the strengthening ties of Iran, Hezbollah and Syria and said that the next confrontation on Israel’s northern borders will not be a “limited operation” and that Israel will have to emerge decisively victorious.
He added that Israel “knows how to manage alone and we’ll know how to deal with the challenges even without the US’s help.”
Channel 10 reported Saturday that Liberman is set to meet with US Defense Secretary James Mattis and that in the framework of the US’s new declared approach to Iran, will ask that the US act against Iran’s presence in Syria.
In a highly anticipated speech on Friday, Trump said he would not recertify the Iranian deal to Congress and warned that the US may walk away from “one of the worst” agreements in history.
The US leader also announced tough new sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while stopping short of declaring the powerful group a terrorist organization.
Trump warned that the US could “terminate the deal” if it is unable to bring about better terms and better enforcement of the current accord.
Trump also said that following a review by his administration, he planned to take “major steps” to ensure “Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.”
The president said Iran is “under the control of a fanatical regime” that has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.” He warned that “history has shown that the longer we ignore a threat the more dangerous that threat becomes.”
He said the Iranian regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and provides assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas, among others.
Agencies contributed to this report.