May warns Netanyahu on danger of axing Iran deal

Calls JCPOA agreement vital for Middle East security, says it neutralizes Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons for a decade.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, February 6, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, in London, February 6, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Iran deal is vital for the security of the Middle East, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Israel on Monday, as the United States continues to weigh weakening the agreement which was designed to constrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the most vocal opponents of the 2015 agreement between Iran and the six world powers, including the US.
According to a Downing Street spokesperson, May raised the issue with Netanyahu during a phone call.
May noted “the importance of the nuclear deal with Iran, which has neutralized the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade,” her office said.
She explained to Netanyahu that the “UK remains firmly committed to the deal and that we believe it is vitally important for regional security.”
“Prime Minister [May] said it was important that the deal is carefully monitored and properly enforced, and that both sides deliver on their commitments,” the Downing Street spokesman said.
The two leaders agreed the international community must be “clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East, and that the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran’s destabilizing regional activity,” Downing Street said.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday, “We are worried by the signals coming from the US which suggest that the US president will declare... that from his point of view the Iran nuclear deal is not complied with.
“Our big concern is that the security situation would get worse if the US rejects the Iran nuclear deal, and not better. We do not achieve a better security situation but rather we are in danger of falling back to a time when Iran participated in the development of nuclear weapons, and that there are new military dangers in the making there,” Gabriel told reporters in Berlin.
A decision by US President Donald Trump to decertify the deal would allow Congress to impose sanctions on Iran within 60 days.
Such a step would not cancel the deal but it would weaken it, given that the lifting of sanctions was one of the main motivations for Iran to sign the agreement.
Both Israel and the US feel the deal does not go far enough to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, and in particular leaves it with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu spoke against the deal when he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York last month, warning that when the deal expired, Iran could “enrich uranium on an industrial scale, placing it on the threshold of a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons.
“That’s why Israel’s policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran is very simple: Change it or cancel it. Fix it or nix it. Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli premier has been quiet on the matter in the days leading up to Sunday’s deadline for Trump to decertify the deal.
All five of the other signatories to the Iran deal have expressed concern about the pending decertification, which paves the way for Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran.
The United Kingdom, however, is the only country that publicly discussed the matter with Israel.
Reuters contributed to this story.