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Netanyahu: Don't Test Israel's Resolve 02/18 11:26

   MUNICH (AP) -- The nuclear deal with Iran has emboldened Tehran to become 
increasingly aggressive in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu said Sunday, warning that Iran should "not test Israel's resolve" as 
he showed off what he said was part of a downed Iranian drone.

   Netanyahu said of Iran that if the U.S. decides to scrap the 2015 nuclear 
deal, which he has long opposed, "I think they'll do nothing."

   But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, appearing two hours later 
at the same Munich Security Conference, fired back that Netanyahu's comment was 
"delusional thinking."

   "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.

   U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed deep skepticism about the Iran 
nuclear deal that lifted sanctions against the country. He extended sanctions 
waivers in January but said he would not do so again when they come up for 
renewal in May unless his concerns are addressed.

   Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a main architect of the nuclear 
deal, said it was "absolutely critical" to ensure it survives.

   "We know what the world looks like without the Iran nuclear agreement," he 
said Sunday, speaking at the same conference. "It's not a better place."

   If the U.S. abandons the current nuclear deal it's unlikely Iran would 
consider a new one, Kerry said.

   "The problem is the waters have been muddied because of this credibility 
issue about America's willingness to live up to any deal," he said.

   Kerry dismissed Netanyahu's contention that Iran would be on its way to 
having a nuclear arsenal in 10 years, saying "that's fundamentally not 
accurate."

   Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir weighed in, saying the Iran nuclear 
deal "has flaws that need to be fixed." He said that, among other things, the 
inspection system needs to be more intrusive.

   "The world has to extract a price from Iran for its aggressive behavior," he 
added.

   Netanyahu told world leaders, diplomats and defense officials at the 
conference that the deal was similar to the infamous 1938 "Munich Agreement" 
that Western powers signed with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to stave off war in 
Europe, which became synonymous with appeasement.

   "The concessions to Hitler only emboldened the Nazi regime," he said. 
"Rather than choosing a path that might have prevented war... those 
well-intentioned leaders made a wider war inevitable and far more costly."

   Similarly, he said, the Iranian nuclear agreement has "unleashed a dangerous 
Iranian tiger in our region and beyond."

   Declaring that Iran's "brazenness hit new highs," he theatrically held up a 
fragment of what he said was an Iranian drone shot down last week by Israel in 
Israeli airspace and challenged Zarif.

   "Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it's yours," Netanyahu said. 
"You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran --- do not test 
Israel's resolve!"

   Tehran has denied that the drone belonged to Iran. Zarif on Sunday dismissed 
Netanyahu's stunt as "a cartoonish circus... which does not even deserve the 
dignity of a response."

   Iranian troops, along with Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite forces, 
have aided Syrian President Bashar Assad in his war against rebel groups. 
Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that he will not accept a permanent Iranian 
military presence in postwar Syria, fearing that Iran and its Shiite allies 
would turn their attention to Israel.

   Netanyahu has been projecting a business-as-usual approach on his visit to 
Germany amid uproar at home after police on Tuesday said was sufficient 
evidence to indict him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases.  
The Israeli leader has angrily rejected the accusations and denounced what he 
describes as an overzealous police investigation. He has also dismissed the 
accusations as a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media.

   Zarif suggested Netanyahu might be escalating tensions with Iran simply to 
distract from his domestic problems.

   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."

   Netanyahu told the audience that destroying the drone was a demonstration of 
Israel's resolve.

   "Israel will not allow Iran's regime to put a noose of terror around our 
neck," he said. "We will act if necessary, not just against Iran's proxies that 
are attacking us but against Iran itself."

   Lebanese Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf accused Israel of being 
hypocritical, saying that he'd had "an Israeli drone above my head for the past 
15 years" and warning about any aggression from its neighbor.

   "Lebanon has no belligerent intent on anybody, but watch out, we will defend 
ourselves," he said. "We also have partners, we also have friends, we also have 
people willing to die for their country. We are for peace, yet we will not 
stand for any threat and we will not accept any aggression. "


(KA)

 
 
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