Incoming Mossad director Yossi Cohen.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Iran is moving in to fill vacuums in regions in the Middle East created by the retreat of Islamic State, Mossad head Yossi Cohen told the cabinet on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting.
The Mossad head warned that Iran's expansion in the region through its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen is currently the central development in the Middle East.
In addition, Cohen said that Iran has not given up on its ambitions to become a “nuclear threshold” state, and that the Iranian nuclear deal only increases this tendency and “'strengthens Iran's aggressiveness in the region.”
Cohen said that since the deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was adopted in 2015, Iran's has entered a period of economic growth, and that Tehran's recent agreements with international firms are strengthening the Islamic Republic's economy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was an ardent opponent of the JCPOA, said that the recent developments are additional proof that the premises that underlined the deal were mistaken. One of those premises was that the deal would moderate Iran's behavior in the region.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel was not obligated to any international agreement with Iran. “Israel will continue to work with determination and in a variety of ways to protect itself from these threats,” he said.
The cabinet discussion on Iran comes just three days after US President Donald Trump said that Iran is not "living up to the spirit" of the nuclear deal, adding again that he believes the deal to be a "horrible agreement."
"I don't think they're living up to the spirit of the agreement," Trump told reporters. "I personally don't think they're in compliance. But we have time, and we're going to see."
He warned that there will be some “very strong things taking place” if the Iranians “don’t get themselves in compliance.”
After considerable internal debate, the State Department on July 17 certified that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal. The administration, according to law, must notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is abiding by the terms of the deal.
This was the second time since Trump came into office in January that the administration certified Iran as in compliance, though on July 18 it slapped new sanctions on the country against entities and people involved in actions that the administration considers as against the spirit of the agreement, such as missile development and weapons acquisition.
In response to the new US sanctions, Iran's parliament on Sunday gave initial approval to a bill to boost spending on Tehran's missile program and the elite Revolutionary Guards.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the outlines of the bill to "counter America's terrorist and adventurist actions" as some chanted "Death to America," the state broadcaster IRIB reported.
Iran denies that its missile program violates a UN resolution which endorsed Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and calls upon the Islamic Republic not to conduct activities related to ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Tehran says it does not design such missiles.
The Iranian plan would require Iran's government and armed forces to draw up a strategy to counter US violations of human rights around the world, and to support Iranian bodies and individuals affected by US sanctions.
The measure would also allocate over $260 million each to Iran's ballistic missile program and the Quds Force - the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been deployed to battlefields in Iraq and Syria.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told members of parliament that the government backed the bill, which he said "was designed wisely so that it does not violate the [nuclear deal] and provide excuses for opposing sides", state news agency IRNA reported.Reuters contributed to this report.