Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, attending a security conference with international leaders here in Munich, on Sunday brandished what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel and warned that he was ready to go to war if Tehran continued to entrench itself in Syria, The Jerusalem Post reports.
“Do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.” He said that if pushed, Israel would act “not only against Iranian proxies that are attacking us but against Iran itself,” said Netanyahu, directly addressing Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during his speech.
With former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, one of the key architects of the Iranian nuclear deal, sitting in the front row, Netanyahu ripped into the accord as he has done many times in the past, saying that the inspection regime is completely insufficient and that when the sun sets on the agreement in some 10 years’ time, the Iranians will have an “open highway” to build not only one nuclear device but an entire nuclear arsenal.
“To have nuclear weapons, you need a gun, bullets, and gunpowder. The gun is the ballistic missiles that the Iranians are developing, unchecked by the nuclear deal and undeterred by UN Security Council resolutions. They should be stopped and slammed with the most crippling sanctions to prevent them from continuing the development of these [nuclear] delivery systems, these guns. Furthermore, the Iranians are hiding the casings for the bullets in military sites, which the nuclear deal has placed out of bounds to inspectors. And the third element – the gunpowder – is the enriched uranium, which is the toughest thing to make for a nuclear weapon, because it is the most difficult to manufacture, requires big plants and precision engineering. When the sun sets on the agreement, Iran will be given free rein to enrich uranium without limitations,” Netanyahu said.
On Sunday, Netanyahu used the conference venue in the Bavarian capital to draw an analogy between the Iran deal and the appeasement of Nazi Germany, associated with a treaty signed here on the eve of World War II. The Iran deal, he said, had “unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger in our region and beyond.” He stopped short of equating Iran with Nazi Germany but drew many comparisons.
“Let me be clear, Iran is not Nazi Germany,” he said. “There are many differences between the two,” he said, but, he noted, “there are also some striking similarities.”
He pursued the analogy later in the afternoon when he visited a memorial to Israeli athletes who were killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“There is a special meaning to the fact that we are standing at the place where 11 of our athletes were murdered just because they were Jews and Israelis,” Netanyahu said. “Millions were slaughtered here just because they were Jews.” Today, he said, “we have a state and this state has acted and is acting today, against terrorism and those who would destroy us,” he said.
The remarks came just more than a week after the Israeli military had engaged directly with Iranian forces in Syria, striking what Israel said were a number of Iranian targets after intercepting a drone that had penetrated its airspace, then losing an Israeli fighter jet under Syrian antiaircraft fire.
“I’ve made clear in word and deed that Israel has red lines it will enforce. Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. Israel will continue to act to prevent Iran from establishing another terror base from which to threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Netanyahu predicted that the Iranians would “do nothing” if the nuclear deal is not either “fixed or nixed.” Furthermore, he said, the countries of the world would have to decide whether they prefer dealing with the US or with Iran, which – despite the fact that it has some 80 million people as compared to Israel’s 8.5 million – has an economy about the size of Israel’s.
“I think the time to stop them is now,” he said.
Netanyahu said that Iran, through nefarious moves in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, is trying to change the status quo in the region. If they do change the status quo, he said, the rule he will follow is one established by the early Zionists when dealing with problems:
“They said nip things in the bud, stop them before they get big. That’s basically what our policy is.”
A few hours after Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the Israeli leader’s warning as a “cartoonish circus which does not even deserve the dignity of a response.” The Iranian foreign minister accused Netanyahu of deliberately escalating the situation with “almost daily incursions into Syrian airspace” at a time when he was under pressure at home.
“I can assure that if Iran’s interests are not secured, Iran will respond, will respond seriously. And I believe it would be a response that means people would be sorry for taking the erroneous action they did,” he said.
Zarif, in addition to dismissing Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus,” said the recent shooting down of an Israeli F16 after it bombed an Iranian site in Syria had shattered Israel’s “so-called invincibility.”
“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors. Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened. What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled,” Zarif said, accusing Israel of “mass reprisals against its neighbors and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon.”
He accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East. Zarif also poked at Netanyahu for his legal problems, saying, “Israel’s major problems are its years-long criminal occupation policies, and I’m not even talking about its corruption.”
Denouncing what he said were Israel’s “almost daily illegal incursions into Syrian airspace,” Zarif said Israel was trying “to create these cartoonish images to blame others for its own strategic blunders, or maybe to evade the domestic crisis they’re facing.”