3 Mar 2015

Netanyahu’s Iran ‘nuclear nightmare’ warning

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tells a joint session of the US congress that Iran “will always be an enemy of America”, as he derides a proposed nuclear deal with the regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has warned US President Barack Obama against accepting a nuclear deal with Iran that would be a “countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare” by a country that “will always be an enemy of America”.

The proposed deal “will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” he said. “It will all but guarantee that Iran will get those nuclear weapons – lots of them.”

The speech escalated Mr Netanyahu’s campaign against Mr Obama’s diplomacy on Iran, putting unprecedented stress on the two leaders’ ties.

The White House has called the trip a breach of protocol and Mr Obama will not meet with Netanyahu during the visit, saying it takes place too close to Israel’s 17 March elections.

Fifty-nine members of congress boycotted the speech and Vice-President Joe Biden was also conspicuously absent.

Deal ‘paves way’ for bomb

Mr Natanyahu said Iran’s regime was “as radical as ever,” could not be trusted, and the deal being worked out with world powers would not block Iran’s way to a bomb “but paves its way to a bomb”.

“Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-semitism, with the newest technology,” he continued. “He tweets that Israel must be annihilated.”

Late on Monday night Senator Elizabeth Warren told the Boston Globe that although she was "deeply concerned" by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. She said that house Speaker Boehner's actions were "less helpful for addressing the critical issue" of safety in the Middle East.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post where he labelled Netanyahu's speech as a "political stunt" and would cause "long-term damage to one of the most important international relationships the United States has - and the most important international relationship the Israelis have."

Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine criticised the proximity of the speech to the Israeli election. "There is no reason to schedule this speech before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership," he said in a statement.

Veteran civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis confirmed that he would not be attending the speech, but emphasised that he would not be organising a formal boycott.

“Iran’s regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem,” he told congress.

He said the battle between Iran and Islamic State (also known Isis) “doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America – Iran and Isis are competing for the crown of militant Islam”.

“Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first in the region, and then in the entire world,” he added.

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat Isis and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war – we can’t let that happen.”

Although given the cold shoulder by the US administration, Mr Netanyahu has offered an olive branch, saying he meant no disrespect to Obama by accepting an invitation to speak to US lawmakers that was orchestrated by the president’s rival Republicans.

Mr Netanyahu wants the Iranians stripped of nuclear projects that might be used to get a bomb – something Tehran insists it does not want. Washington deems the Israeli demand unrealistic.

Under a 2013 interim deal, the US and five other powers agreed in principle to let Iran maintain limited uranium enrichment technologies.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice argued on Monday that this commitment could not be undone.