Netanyahu hails ‘historic’ Iran sanctions, says his fight against world paid off
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Netanyahu hails ‘historic’ Iran sanctions, says his fight against world paid off

Prime minister thanks Trump as new penalties against Tehran go into effect after pullout from nuclear deal, claims move will put Iranian regime ‘in a choke hold’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on November 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on November 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised US President Donald Trump’s “courageous, determined and important decision” to reinstate all US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, saying the move was a direct result of his own efforts against the deal.

“​For many years I ​have devoted my time and energy to the war against the Iranian threat. ​On this issue I went ​up ​almost against the whole world. Today we see the results of this long and ongoing struggle​,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.

“This day is a historic day,” Netanyahu said. ​”​I would like to again thank President Donald Trump again for a courageous, determined and important decision. I think this contributes to stability, security and peace.”

Iranian protesters demonstrate outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2018, marking the anniversary of its storming by student protesters that triggered a hostage crisis in 1979. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

Monday’s sanctions are the second batch the Trump administration has reimposed on the Islamic Republic since withdrawing from the nuclear agreement earlier this year.

The rollback ends US participation in the Obama-era accord, which now hangs in the balance as Iran no longer enjoys the billions of dollars in sanctions relief it was granted under the deal in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, broadly welcomed the US’s exit from the deal and the reimposition of sanctions.

Netanyahu, who personally lobbied world leaders against the deal and since its signing, has called for it to be canceled said, “This is ​a very big day for the State of Israel. This is a great day for the people of Israel. This is a great day for the future of Israel.”

He said that the sanctions, particularly targeting Iran’s banking sector would put “Iran’s terrorist regime in a large choke hold.”

Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its rial currency lost more than two-thirds of its value since May and now trades at 145,000 to one US dollar, down from 40,500 to $1 a year ago.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry also hailed the US sanctions as “an important step in curbing the regime’s aggression. They should be enforced by all governments that aim to promote stability and prevent terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.”

The Foreign Ministry linked the Islamic Republic’s support for terrorism, including alleged plots in Europe, to its nuclear program.

US President Donald J. Trump signs an executive order on Iran Sanctions at Trump National Golf Club, August 6, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman said the renewed sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors was the “sea change the Middle East has been waiting for.”

“In a single move, the United States is dealing a critical blow to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen,” the minister posted in a rare English-language tweet. “President Trump, you’ve done it again! Thank you.”

Speaking at his own Jewish Home faction meeting, Education Minister Naftali Bennett also thanked Trump, saying the sanctions “send a loud message that terror does not pay.”

“Thank you for making the ayatollahs afraid again,” Bennett said, later tweeting the same message.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision to reimpose sanctions was “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted, including an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

But proponents as well as the other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the European Union — have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the US, fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

France, Germany, Britain, and the European Union issued a joint condemnation Friday of the US move, vowing to protect European companies doing “legitimate” business with Tehran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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