Netanyahu: Fighting ISIS key, but don't forget Iran

On the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, PM warns of threat of radical Islamist terrorism threatening the region.

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September 11, 2014 17:25
4 minute read.

PM Netanyahu at the 14th International Conference on Counter-Terrorism

PM Netanyahu at the 14th International Conference on Counter-Terrorism

 
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With the US now leading a coalition to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the West must act against the nuclearization of Iran with equal determination.

Netanyahu came out firmly in support of US President Barack Obama’s call on Wednesday for united action against Islamic State.

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“All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against radical terrorism that sweeps across the Middle East, that sweeps across the world,” the prime minister said. “And we are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known, some things are less known.”

However, the focus of his address to the annual conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya was Iran.

Speaking on the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US, Netanyahu asked the participants to imagine what would have happened had al-Qaida been armed with nuclear weapons.

“You know they would have used them against New York and against Washington,” he said. “These groups have absolutely no moral or other impediments to their mad desires. Once they have massive power, they will unleash all their violence, all their ideological zeal, all their hatred with weapons of mass death.”

In the same vein, he said, “what would happen if the terror regime in Iran will have nuclear weapons? They control themselves today. They put up a good front, but they have tremendous ambitions. Not for Iran, but for Shi’ism from Iran. And those ambitions would be unleashed once they have nuclear weapons in their capacity.”



A week before the restart of nuclear negotiations between the world powers and Tehran, Netanyahu said that a “good deal” would be similar to last year’s deal to remove chemical weapons physically from Syria.

He came out against what Israel fears might be a Western willingness to allow Iran to retain nuclear capabilities but put it under an international supervisory regime.

“The whole idea of [nuclear] breakout is you throw away the inspector, and once you unlock the storehouse, you rush to make the weapons,” he said. “That is what Iran is seeking. Iran is seeking to keep enriched nuclear material, to keep centrifuges in short order, but to put a padlock on it with inspectors.”

At a certain point, when the world is busy with another international crisis, Iran will kick out the inspectors, break the lock and attain nuclear weapons in a few weeks or months, the prime minister warned.

A nuclear Iran would lead to a “tremendous pivot” in the world, Netanyahu continued, adding that things would occur that “you never imagined could be possible. Horrors that you cannot even contemplate [would] come to fruition. The ultimate terror. A terrorist regime with the greatest terror of them all.”

While warning against a “bad deal” on Iran, Netanyahu said that radical Sunni terrorism – embodied by groups such as Islamic State, al-Qaida, Hamas and Boko Haram – and radical Shi’ite terrorism – embodied by Iran and Hezbollah – were “two sides of the same coin.”

There is no need strengthen one in order to weaken the other, he said; rather, both must be weakened. “And most importantly, don’t allow any of them to get weapons of mass destruction.”

All the radical Islamic forces that have come to the surface since the Arab Spring, reflecting ancient hatreds and frustrations, have one common goal, he said: the establishment of Islamic domination, first in the Middle East, and then throughout the world.

“They all agree on the establishment of the caliphate,” he stressed. “They just disagree on who the caliph should be.”

The Islamic radicals all used the same tactics: unbridled violence and terrorism, first against their own people, and then against others, the prime minister said.

This terrorism had been used to quell internal opposition in Iran five years ago, among territories falling to Islamic State now, and by Hamas in Gaza over the summer, he said.

“There is a master race, and now there is a master faith – and that allows you to do anything to everyone,” he said. “First to your own people, and then to everyone else.”

For everyone else, these groups were using new techniques: taking over civilian populations, putting themselves inside civilian areas, using their own people as human shields and then firing indiscriminately on other civilians, he said.

“This creates a whole new set of problems,” the prime minister noted. “Because it is much more difficult to fight this type of terror. It is much easier to fight an army.”

Not only is this type of warfare more difficult, he said – in an obvious campaign to win public support for significantly increasing the defense budget – but it is much more expensive.

“Because these people are forcing you to face up to moral limits that democracies obey, [they] are basically forcing you to fight a new war,” he said.

That war requires precision-guided munitions to target the terrorists fighting from civilian areas and limit collateral damage, as well as precise intelligence and defending civilian populations against missiles.

All that is “very, very expensive,” he stressed.

Netanyahu said that these multifaceted challenges necessitated a significant increase in the defense budget, but by rearranging priorities, not by massively increasing the deficit.

“Life is first, security is first,” he said. “We don’t want to endanger the economy. We need to increase the defense budget responsibly, in a way that will not lead to a wild increase of the deficit.”

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