PM meets with Merkel ahead of Macron and May; Meeting centered on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, efforts in Syria and Yemen; Netanyahu calls on IAEA to open investigation with Israel’s newly obtained intelligence on Iran’s weapons and nuclear programs; Merkel: We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon. The difference between us is how to do that.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany on Monday, their meeting centered on Iran’s nuclear program and presence in Syria.
It was his first of three meetings with European leadership , Netanyahu meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday in Paris. He will meet with with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
Netanyahu and Merkel spoke to the press following their meeting, Netanyahu calling for economic sanctions and Iran’s complete withdrawal from Syria, as well as renewed investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency following Israel’s exposure of Iran’s secret nuclear bomb program and advanced work on weaponization last month.
He spoke of the global threat and common challenge “the civilized world faces today is the danger that comes out from militant Islamic states that are bent on aggression and acquiring nuclear arsenals.” Referring to Iran’s Supreme Ruler’s tweet calling Israel a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated” on Monday, he stated “this is amazing that in the beginning of the 21st century, somebody talks about destroying Israel. It means destroying another 6 million plus Jews. It’s quite extraordinary that this goes on, but this is what we face.”
Specifically on Iran, Netanyahu said “Iran calls for our destruction, but it’s also seeking nuclear weapons to carry out its genocidal designs. We know that for a fact,” calling for the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate Iran based on the new intelligence Israel provided in May, to all European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal and the IAEA.
The prime minister then spoke of Iran’s presence on Israel’s borders in southern Syria and efforts through its proxies in the region, reiterating “the other danger from Iran is that it is trying to conquer the Middle East. It’s doing so in Syria. It’s doing so in Yemen. And it’s doing so in other places. In Syria, Iran is trying to put its army, its air force, its navy and ground forces from, moving it 1,500 kilometers from Iran to the backdoor of Israel, with the explicit goal of attacking us… we cannot accept that.”
He gave statistics of Iran’s activities in Syria, calling on Germany to condemn Iranian forces, stating “The Iranian military presence right now in Syria includes about 18,000 Shiite militia, commanded by Iranian commanders. These Shiite militias come from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, from other places, and they have a specific goal, a military goal, but also a religious goal. Iran wants to increase the number of such militia to 80,000 and to basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria. Syria is 96% Sunni, but try to convert Sunnis.”
He warned on the future refugee crisis as a result, stating “This will inflame another religious war. This time a religious war inside Syria, and the consequences would be many, many more refugees and you know exactly where they’ll come.”
Netanyahu spoke of Iran’s funding of terror groups and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, stressing the need for economic sanctions in order to “break this cash machine that feeds the Iranian empire that endangers everybody, endangers Israel, but indirectly also endangers Germany and Europe.” He added, “Iran must not be allowed to have a foothold, a military foothold in Syria. Iran should leave Syria, all parts of Syria. This is our position, and I think we have to band together to confront this Iranian aggression, the world’s foremost sponsor of terror.”
Merkel then spoke, continuing with her support of the nuclear deal, stating that Germany “supports Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran all along. We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon. The difference between us is how to do that.” While she stated that Iran’s “regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security” she reported that Germany would “make every diplomatic effort to make use of our influence on the issue of Iran’s ballistic program and its activities in Yemen and the presence of Iran’s army in Syria.”
She added, “we don’t agree on all issues, but we are friends and partners and we try to understand each other’s interests. There is also a wide range of common views which we will continue to address.”
Netanyahu will meet with Merkel again in Jerusalem in October.
Be sure to watch Amir’s update from the Israeli-Syrian border on developments in Syria and through the region.
Photo: Screenshot of PM Netanyahu during press conference, 2018.