Netanyahu says it’s ‘absurd’ Iran nuclear talks ongoing after Erbil attack

In English and Hebrew video messages, former PM claims world powers are close to signing ‘a nuclear agreement that will give the ayatollahs a nuclear arsenal’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu launched a scathing attack on world powers who are continuing to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran — even after the Islamic Republic fired missiles toward the US consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In video messages posted to social media in both Hebrew and English on Sunday evening — addressed to Israeli and American citizens, respectively — the former prime minister said it was “absurd” for world powers to continue to negotiate in Vienna with Tehran.

“The desperate rush to sign this flawed nuclear agreement with Iran is not only absurd, it’s downright dangerous,” Netanyahu stated in his English video, posted with the caption: “Every American family should watch this video.”

“Yesterday, Iran fired missiles in the vicinity of the American consulate in Iraq, and the US continues to charge ahead, along with the other powers, to sign a nuclear agreement that will give the ayatollahs a nuclear arsenal,” Netanyahu charged.

“It would also relieve sanctions and give them hundreds of billions of dollars in order to continue the terror that they waged yesterday and wage every day throughout the Middle East and the world,” he said. “This agreement is even worse than its predecessor, because in three years’ time, under this agreement, Iran will be a threshold nuclear state. It will have enough enriched uranium to create dozens and dozens of nuclear bombs and it will have the ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] to deliver them to any place in the United States.”

The final details of the burgeoning nuclear deal between Iran and world powers have yet to be revealed, and diplomats involved have said that some remaining elements are still being negotiated. It was not immediately clear which documents or intelligence Netanyahu was basing his claims on.

Such a deal, the former prime minister said, is “not merely unacceptable, it endangers not only my country, Israel, but your country, the United States, and the entire world. We should not let an aggressive rogue terrorist regime like Iran have nuclear weapons. Have we learned nothing?”

Western diplomats have been negotiating with Tehran for months in Vienna in order to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump. For weeks, diplomats involved have been saying that a deal is close to being signed, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month has complicated efforts, as Moscow is one of the key negotiators in the talks. The EU announced on Friday that the talks were being suspended “due to external factors.”

Overnight on Sunday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired a barrage of missiles at several locations in Erbil, claiming that it had targeted secret Israeli training centers. While the US State Department condemned the incident, and proclaimed that “Iran must immediately cease its attacks,” it did not make any reference to the Vienna negotiations.

A damaged mansion is shown following an overnight Iranian missile attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 13, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)

In the Hebrew version of his video message, Netanyahu accused the “surrender government of Bennett, Lapid, and Gantz” of staying silent and doing nothing “instead of going out and fighting this, on every stage, at every forum.”

The former prime minister proclaimed that “when we return to power — soon, please God — we will come out against this agreement, we will act against it as we have before, and we will do everything we can to protect the State of Israel and the future of the Jewish people. That is my personal promise.”

When Netanyahu was in office, he vocally and publicly opposed the original 2015 deal, including giving a speech to a joint session of the US Congress against the agreement — a move that was seen as further damaging his relationship with then-US president Barack Obama, as well as with the Democratic Party.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who took office in June, has repeatedly spoken out against the nascent deal, but has not adopted Netanyahu’s aggressive stance in talks with US officials.

At the start of the cabinet meeting last week, Bennett reiterated the position his government has taken on the ongoing talks: “Our position regarding the agreement is well-known. The disadvantages of the agreement far outweigh its advantages. In any case, the agreement does not obligate the State of Israel in any way.”

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