Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday likened Iran’s “dangerous” flouting of the nuclear deal to the Nazis occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, in a call for European countries to sanction the Islamic Republic over its ramped-up uranium enrichment.
Iran said Sunday it was set to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by the 2015 nuclear accord within hours as it seeks to press signatories into keeping their side of the bargain.
The Islamic Republic also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the agreement.
The move to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent comes despite opposition from the European Union and the United States, which has quit the deal.
“This is a very dangerous step and I am urging my friends, the leaders of France, Britain, Germany: You signed this deal, and you said the moment this step would be taken, there would be harsh sanctions… Where are you?” said Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, the prime minister compared the stepped-up enrichment to the Nazis’ first act of military aggression.
“I discussed this morning… how World War II began in Europe. It began when Nazi Germany took one small step, reentering the Rhineland. It was a small step, no one said anything and no one did anything. The next step was the Anschluss… and the step after that was the entry into Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The rest is known,” Netanyahu said.
Turning to Europe, he appealed to his allies to respond with economic penalties.
“I’m asking you — not to provoke, but out of joint knowledge of history and what happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward things that are very dangerous to us all — take the steps that you promised. Enact the sanctions.
“We’re doing our part. We are always fighting Iranian aggression, we aren’t allowing it to entrench [militarily] in Syria. We are acting, trying to nip it in the bud,” added Netanyahu, urging EU countries to do their part.
Netanyahu’s comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Paris would not seek to trigger the nuclear deal’s so-called dispute resolution mechanism, which sets off a series of negotiations that could end with reimposed UN sanctions on Iran within 65 days.
“It’s not an option at this moment,” a source in Macron’s office told Reuters.
Macron said Saturday he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume dialogue between Iran and Western partners. Macron’s office said in a statement that the French leader spoke for more than an hour Saturday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani amid a standoff between Tehran and the US.
Macron expressed “strong concern about new weakening” of the 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He said they would “explore between now and July 15 conditions for resumed dialogue among all parties.” The statement didn’t elaborate.
The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia — and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fueling a deep recession.
It is not yet clear how far the Islamic Republic will boost enrichment.
But a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.
Spokesperson Behrooz Kamalvandi said Sunday that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was fully ready to enrich uranium “at any amount and at any level” if ordered to do so.
The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.