Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cautioned Iran that it is within range of Israeli air strikes. While standing in front of an ‘Adir’F-35 jet following what he called “a very impressive tour at the Air Force base” in Netavim, the Premier said “Iran recently has been threatening Israel’s destruction. It should remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran, and certainly Syria.”
Last week, a senior Iranian parliamentarian was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying that if the United States attacked Iran, Israel would be destroyed in half an hour.
Jerusalem has long said that every option – including military action – remains on the table, in ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. Israeli leaders have also realized forceful pledges to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and halt deliveries of advanced weapons from the Islamic Republic to its proxy Hezbollah, by carrying out innumerable air strikes in the area.
Netanyahu has also called on European partners to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal to impose automatic “snapback sanctions,” in the wake of Tehran’s declaration on Sunday that its scaling back of commitments to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will include ramped up levels of uranium enrichment beyond the 3.67% limit; passing 4.5%, according to the student’s news agency ISNA. The claims were later verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
At the onset of his weekly cabinet meeting, the Israeli leader said “Iran has violated its solemn promise under the U.N. Security Council not to enrich uranium beyond a certain level,” and stressed “The enrichment of uranium is made for one reason and one reason only – it’s for the creation of atomic bombs.” In a statement addressed to his “friends, the heads of France, Britain and Germany,” Netanyahu said “you signed this deal and you said that as soon as they take this step, severe sanctions will be imposed – that was the Security Council resolution. Where are you?”
European governments have now taken a first step to do just that, by triggering the accord’s mechanism to resolve breaches. A statement issued by the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, plus the foreign affairs chief of the European Union, affirmed that the Islamic Republic “is pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments” under the deal. The statement read that “These compliance issues must be addressed within the framework of the JCPoA, and a Joint Commission should be convened urgently.”
The convening of a joint commission of signatories – the Europeans plus Russia and China – is the first stage in a process foreseen in the agreement that could eventually lead to the reimposition of the international sanctions that had been lifted by the deal.
The latest developments come amid reports that U.S. officials have been holding secret meetings with their Iranian counterparts in Iraq. Hassan Khomenei, grandson of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, was said to have led his country’s delegation, allegedly including Iranian Special Envoy to Iraq Iraj Masjedi and two officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The talks were reportedly held at a hotel in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, however, has denied the holding of any private discussions with Iranian representatives in Iraq last week. He said Tehran has rejected Washington’s diplomatic efforts “too many times,” and stressed “We, for the first time, are saying no to the Iranian regime.”
In apparent reference to the Tehran-backed Islamist Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, the Special Representative added, “There is no acceptable level of lethal assistance to its proxies. There is no acceptable level of threatening your neighbors day in and day out.” Hook insisted that in order for the White House to open negotiations with the Ayatollahs, “They’ve got to change their behavior.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been turning up the heat on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the hawkish U.S. Security Advisor John Bolton, to whom he often refers as “the B Team,” alongside Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Zarif taunted on Twitter that “Bolton & Netanyahu killed Paris agreement between E3 & Iran in ’05 by insisting on zero enrichment,” boasting “Result? Iran increased its enrichment 100 fold by 2012.” He then added “#B_Team hasn’t learned. BUT THE WORLD SHOULD.”
Iran’s top diplomat accused Israel and its allies of tricking the White House into thinking it could negotiate better terms than the 2015 accord, which he said was “killed” by Washington’s insistence that Tehran stop all uranium enrichment. “Now they’ve lured @realdonaldtrump into killing #JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear deal) w/the same delusion,” later adding “#B_Team sold @realDonaldTrump on the folly that killing #JCPOA thru #EconomicTerrorism can get him a better deal,” adding “As it becomes increasingly clear that there won’t be a better deal, they’re bizarrely urging Iran’s full compliance.
Zarif then reposted the message that “There’s a way out, but not with #B_Team in charge.”