Hours after Israeli officials expressed dismay over the mild American response to harsh comments from Iran’s supreme leader, a top US official condemned the remarks in unequivocal terms late Thursday.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said comments from Ali Khamenei painting Israel as a rabid dog were “abhorrent,” according to CNN.
Official Jerusalem was “unpleasantly surprised” Thursday that the Obama administration had not unequivocally condemned the vicious anti-Israel statements made Wednesday morning by Khamenei, senior Israeli officials told The Times of Israel.
It was not immediately clear if Power’s statement was in direct response to Israeli concerns.
In an address to an assembly of tens of thousands of Basij militiamen, Khamenei declared that Israel was doomed to fail and characterized the “Zionist regime” as the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” He also said Israelis “cannot be called human beings.” Footage of the event showed the crowd shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
At a meeting Thursday morning with Jewish leaders in Moscow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today’s Iran reminded him “of the dark regimes of the past that plotted against us first and then against all of humanity,” and thus had to be prevented from attaining nuclear weapons. “The real Iran is what the leader of Iran, Khamenei, said yesterday,” continued Netanyahu. “He called Jews ‘rabid dogs’ and said that they were not human. The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’ Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran! We are not confused.”
Khamenei delivered the speech hours before the resumption of talks in Geneva between the P5+1 countries and Iran on thwarting Iran’s rogue nuclear program.
To Israel’s chagrin, the speech did not prompt an immediate condemnation by the United States, the officials said Thursday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry did speak out against Khamenei’s address, yet stopped short of issuing a forthright condemnation.
“Obviously we disagree with it profoundly,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s inflammatory, it’s unnecessary, and I think at this moment, when we are trying to negotiate what can and can’t be achieved, the last thing we need is names back and forth,” Kerry said, according to ABC News. “Obviously we don’t believe that anything is served with, you know, names that challenge everybody’s sense of propriety and justice and rectitude. We’ve been through this before, as we’ve heard prior, very disturbing assertions regarding the Holocaust.”
On Wednesday, in response to a reporter’s question, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called the comments “not helpful.”
By contrast, a French government spokesperson said soon after Khamenei had spoken that President Francois Hollande considered the comments to be “unacceptable” and that they would complicate the Geneva talks.