Netanyahu: Israel ‘actively countering Iranian aggression’

Arabic news outlets report explosion of IRGC arms depot on Syria-Iraq border

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Lisbon, December 4, 2019 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Lisbon, December 4, 2019
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
LISBON – Israel is working to stop Iranian belligerence throughout the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday in Lisbon, at the start of his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Portuguese capital.

Netanyahu made the statement hours after Arab news outlets reported an explosion in an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) weapons depot at an airport near al-Bukamal on the Syria-Iraq border, but declined to answer questions on the matter.

“We’ve been fortunate that [US President Donald Trump] has a consistent policy of pressure against Iran,” Netanyahu said.

Pointing to Iranian activity in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza and Yemen, Netanyahu said Israel is “actively engaged in countering that aggression.”

Pompeo made brief comments in support of protesters against Iran.

“I flew in from being with the president in London, where... one of the central topics was how to create stability in the Middle East, with anti-Iran protests in Baghdad, Beirut and Iran itself,” Pompeo said. "These are people seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live."

“We’ll do everything we can to create opportunity for these people who want freedom,” he stated.

Netanyahu told Pompeo: “You took the words out of my mouth. The Iranian empire is tottering; let’s make it totter further.”

The prime minister said he “excoriated” the six European countries “trying to sidestep the sanctions the US under President Trump placed. That’s the wrong thing.”

Netanyahu also said he will talk to Pompeo about “the ability to strengthen our mutual defenses even further,” a reference to a possible defense pact between the US and Israel.

He also expressed gratitude to Pompeo for his statement that the US no longer sees settlements as illegitimate.

“Advancing peace has to be based on truth, not lies,” he stated.

Though earlier in the day Netanyahu said he would discuss applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley in his meeting with Pompeo, the two refused to answer questions on the matter.

“It’s a very good place,” is all Netanyahu would say.

On the plane to Lisbon, Netanyahu said the US policy or pressure on Iran is successfully weakening the regime.

“Their economic resources are stressed. The economic problems are creating political problems,” he said.

Netanyahu said that Trump has taken his advice on his Iran policy and took credit for preventing the meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that French President Emmanuel Macron tried to organize.

The prime minister pointed to protests in Tehran, Beirut and Iraq as results of sanctions on Iran.

“There’s no reason to help [Iran],” Netanyahu said, referring to European countries trying to circumvent sanctions. “Instead, we should increase pressure.”

Netanyahu referred to a defense pact between Israel and the US with Pompeo on the flight.

“This is a great thing for Israel. I know there are disagreements... but I think it’s the right thing that will address what we need,” he stated.

Netanyahu plans to meet with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva on Thursday. 

While Netanyahu was in Portugal, the country became the 34th full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, after the Luxembourg-based organization voted to upgrade it from observer status.