NEW YORK — Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday praised President Donald Trump’s speech on Iran as “brave” and slammed Europe – the UK, France and Germany – for “burying their heads in the sand” by staying committed to the deal.
Liberman said Trump’s Friday address, in which the president said he will not recertify the 2015 nuclear deal, was “courageous and correct,” echoing earlier comments from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also lauded the speech as “courageous.”
The Europeans are “burying their heads in the sand just like they did before World War II,” Liberman told Channel 2 about the leaders of Germany, the UK and France – all of which have profited massively from business deals with Iran since sanctions were lifted as part of the deal. “When you see the crises unfolding in Europe, you see this [approach]. They prefer to run away from reality.”
On the other hand, Liberman continued, moderate Middle Eastern nations acknowledge that Iran “presents an existential threat” if it were to acquire nuclear weapons.
The defense minister added, however, that “Israel must be ready to handle Iran by itself without the US.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel released a joint statement after Trump’s speech saying they “stand committed to its full implementation by all sides,” according to a joint statement released by May’s Downing Street office.
The leaders added that they “take note of President Trump’s decision” not to recertify the deal and were “concerned by the possible implications.”
“The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes,” they added. “We encourage the U.S. administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was at odds with his successor, saying Trump’s approach was erroneous and only served to alienate U.S. allies.
“The Iran deal is clearly bad because it enables the Islamic Republic to achieve a military nuclear capability,” he said. “But instead of arguing with the partners to the agreement, who oppose reopening it, it would have been better for the US to focus its efforts on pressuring the Iranian regime with sanctions due to its violations of UN Security Council decisions on terrorism, undermining regimes in the area, human rights violations and distributing weapons and missiles.”
In his interview, Liberman also said that “everything that is happening in Syria is all because of Iran.”
“Without the Iranian regime, Hezbollah would not exist,” he said of Iran’s proxy, the Lebanese terror group, which is fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria. “Due to the lifting of sanctions [on Iran, in the framework of the nuclear deal], Iran was able to increase its support for and strengthen Hezbollah.”
Trump on Friday said he could decertify the nuclear deal and employ “tough sanctions” on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, but he did not follow through with his threat to designate it a terror organization. He asserted that Iran was “under the control of a fanatical regime” that has “spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.”
He warned that the U.S. would “terminate the deal” unless “major steps” were taken to ensure “Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.”