To imagine what the world would look like if Iran had nuclear bombs, one need only think about what Islamic State does with guns and trucks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
He spoke on the CBS program Face the Nation as part of the public relations offensive he has embarked on ahead of the November 24 deadline for the six world powers to reach an agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear program.
Netanyahu is worried that the six powers prefer to reach a bad deal rather than walk away from the talks without any agreement, and has urged them not to make a deal with Iran at any cost, arguing that a stiff sanctions regime can offer a viable alternative to a bad deal.
“Look at what ISIS [Islamic State] is doing now with assault rifles and pickup trucks. Just imagine what Iran would do if it had nuclear weapons,” he told CBS.
“I think it’s important to continue the sanctions. The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal is more sanctions, tougher sanctions, that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said.
There are two groups of radical Islamist fighters battling each other in the Middle East, he said. There is Islamic State and al-Qaida on the Sunni side, and Iran and Hezbollah on the Shi’ite side.
“We want both of them to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction,” the prime minister said, adding that it’s a mistake to strengthen one enemy over the other.
Israel stands with the US in its struggle against Islamic State, Netanyahu said, but warned that Iran was not an ally in that war.
“Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It’s not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel,” he said.
While the US – along with Russia, China, France, Germany and Great Britain – is negotiating with Iran, its supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is participating in rallies with chants of “death to America,” Netanyahu said.
Khamenei is also calling for Israel’s destruction, Netanyahu said.
“Four days ago, he specified nine ways and reasons by which Israel should be destroyed,” the prime minister said.
The US and Israel are committed to halting Iran’s nuclear program but differ on their understanding of how that should happen. Israel fears that unless Iran is forced to dismantle the facilities it uses to enrich uranium, it can become a nuclear threshold state, even with an agreement. The six powers are working on the understanding the facilities can remain.
“I want to be clear [on] what has to be achieved,” Netanyahu told Face the Nation. “It’s not merely preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons today, it’s to prevent them from having nuclear weapons tomorrow.
“That means that Iran should not be left with the residual capacity to enrich uranium that you need to have an atomic bomb, nor to have the long-range ballistic missiles – the ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles – to launch them,” he said.
Iran doesn’t need ballistic missiles to hit Israel. It wants them so it can use them against the US, Netanyahu warned.
He delivered this same message to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when the two met in Jerusalem on Sunday evening.
Steinmeier plans to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss Iran.
Netanyahu told him that a bad deal on Iran “would also make it very difficult to achieve a diplomatic solution, because Iran would have the capacity to break [out] to a nuclear bomb or to sneak to a nuclear bomb within a matter of a few months or even less than that, and that is something that would threaten everyone.”
Germany and Europe as a whole are in danger from Iran’s longrange missiles, he stressed.
He repeated to Steinmeier the same message that he told Face the Nation – that he supports US President Barack Obama’s efforts to defeat Islamic State.
Steinmeier assured him that if an agreement was reach between the six powers and Iran, it would not be a bad one.
“There will be a responsible agreement or no agreement,” Steinmeier said, adding that the two sides had not yet found common ground on all the issues.
“You know, on the working level we are not yet there, so therefore we are trying really hard to have an agreement that is very clear in this one and important issue: that Iran [should not have] any access to nuclear weapons,” he said.