Netanyahu-Mnuchin meeting aims to ‘ramp up the pressure’ against Iran

"Instead of blocking their path to a nuclear bomb, it actually paved their way to a nuclear arsenal," Netanyahu said of JCPOA.

Netanyahu's meeting with Mnuchin, October 21, 2018 (Gil Shimon/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his closed-door meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Jerusalem on Sunday would focus on “ramping up the pressure” against Iran.
Welcoming Mnuchin on his second official visit to Israel, Netanyahu praised the strong Israel-United States alliance in a range of fields, including in their “common approach to preventing aggression” in the Middle East, notably in preventing Iran’s dual quest for a nuclear and conventional arsenal.
“We have seen in recent years that pressure is the only thing that arrests the forward movement of the Iranian nuclear program and pressure is the only thing that rolls back Iran’s aggression in the region,” Netanyahu told Mnuchin at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu praised US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran in May, saying he would also be discussing issues of economic cooperation between the countries and the part that Israel and the United States play in the world economy.
“This is the first stop on my trip to the Middle East this week,” Mnuchin said ahead of the meeting. “I will be going to six countries and this is my first stop because we have no better partner than Israel in our fight against terrorism and combating terrorist financing.”
Mnuchin added that the key purpose of his Middle East trip is to discuss the implementation of a second round of US sanctions which will target Iran’s oil and gas sector, due to enter into effect on November 4.
“This is a very important part of exiting the JCPOA and our plan to make sure that there are never nuclear weapons in Iran. Not now, not in ten years, never,” Mnuchin said.
Despite ongoing calls for clarity regarding the role of Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Mnuchin told reporters on Sunday that although he would not be attending the Future Investment Initiative Summit in Riyadh later this week, he would still be traveling to the Saudi capital for talks focusing on countering Iranian aggression.
“I did not think it was appropriate to go and speak at this conference but we continue to have important issues with Saudi Arabia and that is why I am going there,” Mnuchin said, adding that Khashoggi’s death would not be the focus of his trip.
“It would be premature to comment on sanctions, and premature to comment on really any issues until we get further down the investigation and get to the bottom of what occurred,” he said.
On Saturday, Trump said he was “not satisfied” with Saudi Arabia’s explanation of how Khashoggi died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, but added that it was “possible” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no knowledge of the killing.
Also on Sunday, Mnuchin met with his Israeli counterpart, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. In their fifth meeting to date, they discussed issues including taxation, trade and cooperation in the field of housing ahead of Monday’s annual meeting of the US-Israel Joint Economic Development Group.