Trump: Iran was on its last legs when US nuke deal saved it

Netanyahu welcomes US warning to Iran on ballistic missile tests

PM says upcoming meeting with Trump of ‘great importance’ to Israel; Washington puts Tehran ‘on notice’ for launch

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in memory of Ariel mayor Ron Nachman, in the Israeli settlement of Ariel. February 02, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in memory of Ariel mayor Ron Nachman, in the Israeli settlement of Ariel. February 02, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed Washington’s stern warning to Iran over the Islamic Republic’s controversial testing of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

In a speech in the West Bank settlement of Ariel in memory of its founder and late mayor, Ron Nachman, Netanyahu said that he “listened with appreciation to the remarks of General [Michael] Flynn on the need to counter Iran’s aggression,” indicating that the issue was also discussed in his phone conversation with President Donald Trump following his inauguration last month.

The prime minister termed the Iranian drills a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions.

On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Flynn declared that the United States was “officially putting Iran on notice,” over its launch on January 29 of a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) range ballistic missile that drew immediate concern from the UN Security Council and outrage from Netanyahu, who demanded reimposed sanctions against Iran.

Trump on Thursday echoed Flynn’s statement in a tweet aimed at Iran, saying Tehran “has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!”

Netanyahu said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama administration and other world powers signed with Iran in 2015.

Both Trump and Flynn have been harsh critics of Tehran and vocal opponents of the nuclear deal, which put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Trump vowed to rip up the deal during last year’s presidential campaign.

“Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the US came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion,” Trump said in a second pre-dawn tweet on Thursday.

Netanyahu said his upcoming meeting with Trump, slated for February 15, is “of great importance to our country, our land, our nation.”

Earlier Thursday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran carried out an additional missile test on Sunday of a cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The Soumar model cruise missile does not violate UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015. It calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Still, the test is likely to be viewed in Israel and the US as another aggressive maneuver by Tehran to expand its missile program.

Iran for its part has rejected the warnings as unfounded and “provocative.”

“Claims made by US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser are baseless, repetitive and provocative,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, according to state news agency IRNA.

In his speech Thursday, Netanyahu also referenced his upcoming meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May next Monday to discuss with her “the changing reality in our region and the need to adopt fresh and joint approaches to the threats, chief of them Iran.”

The prime minister also seemed to express relief that a Palestinian state has not yet been created in the framework of a two-state solution, citing the dangers of Iranian influence.

Netanyahu said, “We all understand the significance of a policy that would have set up here [in the West Bank] another Iranian terror branch that would have threatened our country.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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