Iran has so far gained a great deal without giving up anything significant, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday, two days before the planned resumption of talks between world powers and Iran aimed at reaching a long-term agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu has for the past week stressed repeatedly that the sanctions relief that Iran gained as a result of reaching the interim accord in November with the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – has not altered Iran’s negative behavior around the world.
“It has received a major easing of sanctions, and the Iranian economy is already responding appropriately,” he said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Iran is also continuing its aggressive policy both inside Iran and outside Iran. Inside Iran, it is executing innocent people. Outside Iran, it supports the continued killings by the Syrian regime, which would be unable to act without its support.”
Netanyahu said Iran was also continuing to arm terrorist organizations with advanced, deadly weapons “and, of course, it is continuing to call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
Even with the interim agreement, Iran was continuing advanced research and development of centrifuges and was not prepared to concede even one centrifuge, the prime minister said.
“Israel’s policy is clear and is active on two tracks,” he said. “First, to expose Iran’s unchanging aggressive policy.
And second, to demand the dismantling of Iran’s enrichment capacity. Iran does not need any centrifuges for nuclear power for civilian purposes.”
Iran was a focus of a meeting he held in his office Sunday with two visiting US senators, Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Angus King (I-Maine).
The interim agreement reached in Geneva in November went into effect on January 20 and calls for a comprehensive deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program so that it cannot make nuclear arms, in exchange for lifting crippling international sanctions.
US President Barack Obama indicated last week during a press conference with visiting French President François Hollande that in his mind there was no certainty a deal would be reached.
“Next week’s talks in Vienna will be an opportunity for Iran to show that it is serious about a comprehensive solution that assures the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only,” he said. “If they meet what technically gives us those assurances then there’s a deal to be potentially made.
If they don’t, there isn’t.”
At that same press conference, Obama warned that the US would come down “like a ton of bricks” on companies violating sanctions against Iran. His comments came just days after 100 French business executives visited Iran.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN last week he had warned the French companies that they would face sanctions themselves if they contravened the sanctions still in place against Iran.
Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham as saying US steps threatening sanctions against companies interested in business with Iran contravened the accord reached in November.
“These measures totally contradict the international negotiations, which require good will, mutual respect and trust-building,” she said.
Even though Iran arms and supports Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, she also denied Iranian involvement in terrorism.
“Accusing Iran of supporting terrorism, which [itself] is one of the biggest victims of terrorism and [stands] at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, extremism, and violence, is… misunderstanding of the concept of terrorism,” she said.