PM tells Europe: If Iran sanctions are eased, they will collapse

In a blitz of interviews to the European media ahead of new nuclear talks, Netanyahu warns Tehran has ‘vast ambitions and limitless aggression’

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters during a press conference, Tuesday, October 8, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters during a press conference, Tuesday, October 8, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

If the international community lifts sanctions on Iran without ensuring the guaranteed end to uranium enrichment, Europe and the rest of the world will face hundreds of nuclear weapons in the hands of a “murderous” regime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a series of interviews with European media outlets Thursday.

“When a murderous regime engages in soft diplomacy and uses calming words of peace, but nevertheless continues to acquire immense power — it must be stopped, immediately,” Netanyahu said in the interviews, according to quotes provided by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

“This is the central lesson of the 20th century. It’s also the central lesson of North Korea. If [the Iranian regime] is not stopped immediately, there won’t be just two bombs pointed toward you [the Europeans], but 200. Stop it now while you’re in a strong position to do so,” he exhorted.

The interviews, timed ahead of next week’s new round of talks in Geneva between the P5+1 powers and Iran over its rogue nuclear program, were conducted with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and ARD TV, France’s Le Monde and France 24, and the UK’s Financial Times and Sky TV.

“I have in my office two pictures,” Netanyahu said. “The first is of [Theodor] Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, who warned of the rise of an anti-Semitism that would annihilate European Jewry. The second picture is of [Winston] Churchill, and it’s there because he said: ‘Don’t let the Nazis arm. Don’t give immense power to an inflexible, extremist regime.’ And he was right. We can learn a lesson from him.”

Netanyahu urged the Europeans to “be strict, be strong, be consistent. The Iranian regime has vast ambitions and limitless aggression. It is an active player in the mass-murder in Syria. It enables [the Syrian civil war] to happen through its support of Assad. It conducts terror acts across five continents, in 25 cities over the last three years. It violates every decision of the [UN] Security Council related to ending enrichment.”

Netanyahu characterized the Iranian regime’s recent overtures to the West as an effort to continue enrichment, while offering only “tactical, cosmetic concessions.”

“If the sanctions are eased,” he warned, “they will collapse. [Tehran] will get everything they want and we, as a collective, will get nothing.”

He added: “Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t an Israeli issue. It’s also your concern.”

The prime minister concluded with a hint at possible Israeli action to stop the Iranian nuclear program. “The Jewish people have traveled a 4,000-year journey,” he said. The Jews’ enemies “tried to destroy us again and again, but failed. We won’t allow men such as the ayatollahs to succeed.”

In recent weeks, Iran has begun negotiating directly with the US over its nuclear program and severe sanctions imposed by Western powers. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported Iran’s offer to limit its production of nuclear fuel in exchange for an easing of international sanctions. It is expected to proffer its deal at a meeting next week with the P5+1 in Geneva. Late Wednesday, Israeli TV reported that the US and Iran were making significant progress toward a deal that would aim to keep Iran two to three years from a nuclear weapons capability.

Netanyahu’s Iran policy enjoys widespread support among Jewish Israelis, who distrust the new diplomatic warming between Tehran and the West, according to the latest Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index. The poll found broad distrust of US President Barack Obama’s promise to keep Iran from a bomb “at all cost.”

The study, conducted in late September and early October, found that 80% of Jewish Israelis did not believe Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent speech before the UN General Assembly signaled a moderating of Tehran’s nuclear policy, but was merely a change in rhetoric. Only 14% believed it was sincere. Among Arab Israelis, 47% believed it marked a change in policy and 42% thought it was only rhetoric.

Most Popular
read more: