Minister calls for international ‘military coalition’ if Iran boosts enrichment
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Minister calls for international ‘military coalition’ if Iran boosts enrichment

As Netanyahu goes on diplomatic offensive against Tehran in Europe, Israel Katz says Arabs would ‘definitely’ join the West in alliance

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, July 23, 2017. (Ohad Zweigenberg)
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, July 23, 2017. (Ohad Zweigenberg)

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz called Tuesday for a military coalition against Iran if the Islamic Republic defied world powers by enriching military-grade uranium.

Katz’s remarks came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting European leaders to discuss Iran’s regional involvement and nuclear program, both seen by Israel as grave threats.

European powers have been scrambling to preserve a landmark deal over Tehran’s nuclear program since US President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal from the treaty in May.

Katz addressed Tehran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment at an “industrial level” if the 2015 pact falls apart.

“If the Iranians don’t surrender now, and try to return” to unsupervised uranium enrichment, “there should be a clear statement by the president of the United States and all of the Western coalition,” he said.

“The Arabs and Israel surely would be there too.”

The message should be that “if the Iranians return” to enriching uranium that could enable them to build a nuclear bomb, “a military coalition will be formed against them,” Katz told Israel Radio.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting, in Tehran, Iran, January 2, 2018. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday warned European leaders to drop their “dream” of Tehran continuing to curb its nuclear program despite renewed economic sanctions.

He also called Israel a “malignant cancerous tumor” that should be “removed and eradicated.”

The Iran deal paved the way for the partial lifting of international sanctions against the country, in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program for several years.

Israel argues the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and with proxy groups.

It also says the time limits on the accord do not guarantee Iran will not eventually obtain nuclear weapons, while it also wants to see restrictions on Iranian missile development.

Iran denies the pursuit of an atomic program for military purposes.

Netanyahu said that Iran would be the first and only subject on the agenda of his trip to Europe.

Intent on winning support for amending the nuclear deal with Iran and getting Iranian troops out of Syria, the prime minister will also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May, both of whose countries are signatories to the deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a press conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on June 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

Netanyahu warned Merkel that Iran’s presence in Syria should also worry Germany, given that Shiite militias there were intent on converting Sunni Muslims to their creed, with the result that a “new religious war” would break out in the Middle East and send further waves of refugees to Europe.

Israel fears that as the Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shiite proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will turn its focus to Israel.

The Israeli Air Force is believed to have carried out a number of airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria. Last month, Iran fired dozens of rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, and Israel responded by striking several Iranian targets in Syria.

In his Monday meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu warned that Iran was “seeking nuclear weapons to carry out its genocidal designs.”

“It’s important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We commit, and I commit again, that we will not let that happen,” he said.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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