Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly condemned the Iran nuclear deal in a speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, warning that the accord will pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons if it is not scrapped or altered.
After praising Donald Trump’s address earlier in the day from the same podium, in which the US president called the Islamic Republic a “murderous” regime and the nuclear deal an “embarrassment,” Netanyahu said the 2015 accord strengthened Iran’s nuclear program and posed a grave threat to the entire world.
“Imagine the danger of hundreds of nuclear weapons in the hands of a vast Iranian Islamist empire, with the missiles to deliver them anywhere on earth,” he said.
Netanyahu singled out for criticism the deal’s so-called sunset clause, which will lift limitations on Iran’s nuclear program when the accord expires in over a decade.
“When that sunset comes, a dark shadow will be cast over the entire Middle East and the world, because Iran will then be free to enrich uranium on an industrial scale, placing it on the threshold of a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that the failure of past agreements meant to limit North Korea’s nuclear program showed that the Iran pact “will turn out exactly the same way.”
In light of the deal’s flaws, the prime minister said, the nuclear accord must be ripped up or radically amended.
“Change it or cancel it,” he said. “Fix it or nix it.”
“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” he added. “Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation. But above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”
Netanyahu also warned of Iran’s ballistic missile development and growing military expansion in the Middle East, and said that instead of curbing its regional ambitions, the nuclear deal had only strengthened them.
“Many supporters of the nuclear deal naively believed that it would moderate Iran. It would make it a responsible member, so they said, of the international community,” he said. “I warned that when the sanctions on Iran would be removed, Iran would behave like a hungry tiger unleashed, not joining the community of nations, but devouring nations, one after the other. And that’s precisely what Iran is doing today.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an accomplished veteran of United Nations General Assemblies, a reliably eloquent orator, whose team devotes immense time and effort to formulating his annual appearances at the global podium. Unlike some of his Israeli prime ministerial predecessors, his English is flawless. He never stumbles over his words. He never mangles those carefully constructed sentences.
And so it was on Tuesday, at the Assembly’s 72nd session. The difference, this time, was in the prime minister’s air of assurance.
He has never been short of self-belief. But Netanyahu spoke not as the embittered outsider protesting the world body’s history of anti-Israel bias, not as the friendless target of our region’s aggressors, and not as the exasperated lone voice despairing at his peers’ refusal to interpret current affairs with his wisdom.
Netanyahu spoke, rather, with the ultra-confident mien of a national leader who believes the tide of history is turning toward him and his country.
One key factor in that dramatically elevated level of confidence, of course, is the change of US presidency since the last such gathering. Where president Barack Obama championed the Iranian nuclear accord, pushed a reluctant Netanyahu relentlessly for compromise with the Palestinians, and voted an extremely discomfiting resolution through the United Nations Security Council, President Donald Trump shares his horror at the nuclear deal, has made no public demands of Netanyahu regarding the Palestinians, and is determined to reform the UN’s anti-Israel obsessions.
Another major cause of the prime minister’s undisguised sense of growing vindication, as he made plain in his speech, is the simple fact that he is finding a friendly welcome among numerous countries around the world that are gradually recognizing how much of a powerhouse Israel has become in areas central to their national well-being — innovation, technological advances, intel, counter-terrorism and more.
After Trump’s trip to Israel in May, unprecedentedly early in a US president’s term, and the visit of India’s Prime Minister Modi in July, it was the icing on the cake, on the eve of this speech, for Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to agree to a first-ever public meeting with him — the rare, overt acknowledgement of an Israeli-Arab partnership, complete with smiling photographs, proof positive of Netanyahu’s oft-stressed conviction that the rest of the region is gradually warming to the Jewish state.
Quoting Isaiah describing Israel as “a light unto the nations, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth,” Netanyahu sounded like the leader of a superpower. For all its innovative prowess and astonishing resilience, Israel isn’t quite that. But for the first time in his lengthy prime ministership, Netanyahu feels himself utterly allied to the leader of a superpower, as the swagger of his speech made emphatically clear — and entirely unconcerned by any reservations others may have about that US president.
The United States is looking for support from its allies to persuade Iran to re-open talks on the nuclear deal, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, pointing to the fact that it will expire as its biggest problem.
“The most glaring flaw is the sunset provision,” Tillerson told the Fox News television channel. “We all know this is merely a kick the can down the road agreement.”
Under the deal, limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment will begin to expire in 2025.
“It’s not a stiff enough agreement, it doesn’t slow their program enough and holding them accountable is difficult under the agreement, but most importantly the agreement comes to an end, and so we can almost start the countdown clock as to when they restart their nuclear weapons capability,” he said, drawing a parallel with North Korea where an agreement on dismantling its nuclear program collapsed in 2002.
“We do need the support, I think, of our allies, the European allies and others, to make the case as well to Iran that this deal really has to be revisited,” Tillerson said.
State Secy Tillerson on Iran nuke deal: "We can almost start the countdown clock as to when they will resume the nuclear weapons capability" pic.twitter.com/QP0ctOVMGk— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 19, 2017
Tillerson is slated to meet with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday for a meeting of the so-called P5+1 on the nuclear deal, chaired by the European Union.
The comments came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the world community to fix the Iran nuclear deal by removing the sunset clause or to get rid of it and reimpose tough sanctions on Tehran.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran surrendered much of its enriched uranium, dismantled a reactor and submitted nuclear sites to UN inspection, while Washington and Europe lifted some sanctions.
Egypt’s president made an impassioned pitch for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, calling for both sides to take advantage of a “rare” opportunity to achieve the elusive goal Tuesday.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi broke from his prepared remarks to the UN General Assembly in classical Arabic to address Israelis and Palestinians informally in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, saying they should take advantage of an opportunity that “may not be repeated.”
Sissi called on the Palestinians to unite behind a common goal and to accept coexistence with Israel in peace and security.
He also reassured Israelis by citing Egypt’s long-established peace with their nation which has lasted over 40 years, saying that “amazing” step can be repeated with the Palestinians.
“Do not hesitate,” Sissi said, addressing the Israeli public. “We are standing with you to make this step a success.”
Sissi also called on US President Donald Trump to take advantage of an opportunity that could “write a new page of the history of mankind by establishing peace in this region of the world.”
The comments came a day after Sissi held his first public meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The two leaders had “a comprehensive discussion about the problems of the region,” according to a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. Sissi “expressed his desire to assist in efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the region,” it said.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has hinted that the US has secret weapons that could devastate North Korea without endangering the South Korean capital city of Seoul.
The North Korean crisis has proven frustrating to the American military: despite the enormous gap in power between the two nations, a military strike has been strongly discouraged because Seoul and its 25 million residents are only 35 miles from the border, well within range of North Korean artillery. Any military strike against the North could then be answered with a massive loss of life in the South."
But Mattis has hinted that the Pentagon has a few tricks up its sleeve that could prevent such a counterstrike. When asked during a Monday press conference, "is there any military option the U.S. can take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk?" Mattis responded in the affirmative.
"Yes, there are, but I will not go into details," said the retired four star general, who in the past had stated that war with North Korea would "involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital [Seoul], which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth."
"There are many military options, in concert with our allies that we will take to defend our allies and our own interests," Mattis went on to cryptically state.
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