Pointing to Ukraine war, Herzog urges ‘strongest possible’ NATO stance against Iran

Briefing alliance in Brussels, president avoids explicitly condemning Russia, but warns of Iran’s threat on Europe’s doorstep as Tehran transfers drones to Moscow to aid war effort

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) shakes hands with President Isaac Herzog prior to their meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on January 26, 2023. (Photo by John Thys/AFP)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) shakes hands with President Isaac Herzog prior to their meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on January 26, 2023. (Photo by John Thys/AFP)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — President Isaac Herzog on Thursday urged the NATO military alliance to toughen its approach to Iran, citing Tehran’s supplies of drones to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

Speaking to representatives from the 30-nation pact during a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Herzog warned that the Islamic Republic’s foray into the war  put “the Iranian threat … at Europe’s doorstep.”

“The illusion of distance can no longer hold. NATO must take the strongest possible stance against the Iranian regime including through economic, legal and political sanctions and credible military deterrence,” he said.

“The radical Iranian regime is executing innocent citizens at home, launching attacks and undermining stability across the Middle East, spreading arms, death and terror in Europe, in Ukraine especially, and around the world, and continuing its belligerent pursuit of nuclear weapons on its quest for regional and world domination,” the president added.

The appearance by Herzog, who became the first Israeli president to brief NATO’s main decision-making body, came as Western countries have pressed Israel to take a firmer stance against Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Israel has refused to arm Kyiv over fears of angering Moscow, over concerns that it would jeopardize its decade-long campaign in Syria to prevent the entrenchment of Iran on its northern border. Russia, which controls the skies over Syria, has largely refrained from interfering with Israeli airstrikes.

It has repeatedly attempted to rally the West against Iran to stymie its nuclear program, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to make the issue a keystone of his foreign policy.

President Isaac Herzog delivers a speech following a meeting with NATO Secretary general at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on January 26, 2023. (Photo by John Thys / AFP)

Herzog did not explicitly condemn Russia in his remarks, though he expressed sympathy for “the people of Ukraine as they defend their homes and their country,”

“A terrible war continues to cause needless human suffering and compromise the well-being and welfare of millions,” he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he had discussed “our support for Ukraine” with Herzog.

“The Ukrainian people are bravely defending their homeland and NATO allies and partners are helping to support their right to self-defense,” he said.

Stoltenberg also condemned Iran, pointing out the fact that Tehran “is delivering support to Russia, including drones that are used to attack civilian infrastructure, homes and hospitals in Ukraine.”

“In return, Russia is stepping up its support of Iran,” said Stoltenberg. “As we see growing cooperation among authoritarian states, it is more important than ever to stand up for freedom and democracy,” concluded the secretary-general.

The NATO secretary general said Herzog’s visit was a sign of the US-led alliance’s “deepening partnership” with Israel.

Herzog pointed to bolstering cooperation on cyber-security, threats from space, drones and energy.

He said the two sides were slated to sign a new cooperation agreement “in just a couple of months, which lengthens the period of cooperation and expands its reach.”

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