‘We don’t seek war with Iran,’ Netanyahu says as he continues campaign against nuclear deal
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said Tuesday that he was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran even as he continued his public campaign to convince Donald Trump to strengthen the 2015 nuclear deal or pull the US out of it.
A day after Mr Netanyahu dramatically unveiled Israeli intelligence which he said proved that Iran had lied to the world about its nuclear research, the Israeli leader talked down European fears that scrapping the deal could lead to war.
“Nobody is seeking that the kind of development. Iran is the one that changing the rules in the region. Iran is the one practicing aggression against every country in the Middle East,” Mr Netanyahu said.
With less than two weeks until the May 12 deadline when Mr Trump must decide whether to pull the US out of the Iran deal, Britain and France tried to turn Israel’s accusations to their own diplomatic advantage.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, argued that the new Israeli intelligence only underscored the need to keep the nuclear deal and preserve access for international inspectors to look inside Iranian research facilities.
“The Israeli Prime Minister’s presentation on Iran’s past research into nuclear weapons technology underlines the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal’s constraints on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions
“The Iran nuclear deal is not based on trust about Iran’s intentions; rather it is based on tough verification, including measures that allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear programme,” Mr Johnson said.
France’s foreign ministry echoed that sentiment, saying "the pertinence of the deal is reinforced by the details presented by Israel”.
Iran’s foreign ministry denounced Mr Netanyahu as a "broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits”.
The debate over the fate of the Iran deal is playing out against rising tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria. Israel is believed to have been two strikes in the last month which have killed Iranian soldiers in Syria.
Britain, France and Germany face an uphill battle to try to convince Mr Trump to stay in the nuclear agreement, which he has repeatedly denounced as a “horrible” deal for the US.
Israeli officials said Mr Netanyahu’s presentation and his subsequent US media blitz – including an appearance on Fox & Friends, Mr Trump’s favourite morning television show – was designed to counterbalance lobbying by European leaders.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, acknowledged the diplomatic friction between the US and its European allies over the future of the deal but said that relations would not be damaged longterm if the US did withdraw.
“I am confident that we will continue to have good relations with our European partners should the President choose to pull out of this. This will be one issue among many of the important, critical issues that we all work on together,” he said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog tasked with inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites, said it was open to inspecting the new Israeli intelligence but it stood by its previous assessment: that there was “no credible indication” that Iran had continued research into a nuclear bomb after 2009.
FAQ | Iran nuclear talks
Mr Netanyahu said he would share the files with the IAEA. He also said intelligence officials from the UK, France, and Germany were expected in Jerusalem this week to review the newly released Israeli intelligence files.
The intelligence has already been shared with the US and Mr Pompeo said America considered the documents to be “authentic”.