JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted the accord between Iran and world powers limiting Iran’s nuclear program, calling it a “stunning historic mistake.”
Netanyahu, who has vehemently opposed the accord since negotiations between the parties began in 2013, said Tuesday in Jerusalem that “the world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday” due to the agreement.
The deal would remove international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran freezing and storing much of its nuclear infrastructure, ridding much of its stockpile of enriched uranium and converting its nuclear facilities.
“The international community is removing the sanctions, and Iran is keeping its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said at a news conference, referencing an earlier statement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to develop many nuclear bombs.”
Netanyahu said Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that the agreement will not limit Israel’s actions.
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction,” he said. “We will always defend ourselves.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said the deal cuts off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.
“Today because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons” in the Middle East, Obama said in a broadcast from the White House on Tuesday morning. “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.”
Obama said he would veto any congressional bid to derail the deal and also promised to strengthen Israel’s security.
“We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security, efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before,” he said, acknowledging reservations about the deal expressed by Israel and some of its Arab neighbors.
The deal now goes to the United Nations Security Council for approval. With the backing of all the council’s veto-wielding members, who with Germany negotiated the deal, it is guaranteed approval.
According to Obama, two-thirds of uranium-enriching centrifuges will be shut down and Iran will reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, to a fraction of what would be needed to produce a nuclear weapon.
Some restrictions will be in place for 10 and 15 years, and others will be for 25 years, Obama said. Previously the anticipated “sunset” for time-limited provisions was no more than 15 years.
Obama said Iran would not receive sanctions relief until it had complied with nuclear rollback measures.
Additionally, UN nuclear inspectors will have “24-hour” access “when necessary and where necessary,” Obama said. It’s not clear what the details of such access are. Skeptics had expressed concerns that Iran would be granted extensive notice of any inspection, allowing it to cover up its activities.
Iran would also agree to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to its past activities to assess the military dimensions of the nuclear program, Obama said.
Netanyahu compared the agreement to an accord signed between world powers and North Korea meant to limit that country’s nuclear program. In 2006, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s support for terror and subversion will actually increase after the deal,” he said. “This deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea. There, too, we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons. We all know how that ended.”
The prime minister also accused world powers of mistakenly assuming that Iran’s theocratic regime would fall by the time some provisions of the deal expire in a decade. He said the deal makes regime change less likely by empowering Iran’s current leadership.
“They gambled that in 10 years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change while removing any incentive for it to do so,” Netanyahu said. “In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.”
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon called the deal an agreement “built on lies and deceit.”
“This agreement is a tragedy for all who aspire for regional stability and fear a nuclear Iran,” Yaalon said. “Instead of fighting terror with all its might, the free world has granted legitimacy to Iran’s hateful, murderous ways.”
He added that with the signing of the agreement and the lifting of sanctions, “massive funds will be funnelled into the Iranian terror accounts.”
The combined Arab-Israeli political party, the Joint Arab list, praised the deal as “the victory of the will of the Iranian people in their struggle against the blockade and sanctions imposed on them.” Its statement said Netanyahu’s “aggressive rhetoric of incitement and hostility against the Iran deal under the pretext of the ‘Iranian threat’ are indicative of his imperialist and colonialist outlook.”
In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada will examine the deal before taking any specific action.
“We appreciate the efforts of the P5+1 to reach an agreement. At the same time, we will continue to judge Iran by its actions not its words. To this end, Canada will continue to support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iran’s compliance with its commitments,” Nicholson said.
“Iran continues to be a significant threat to international peace and security owing to the regime’s nuclear ambitions, its continuing support for terrorism, its repeated calls for the destruction of Israel, and its disregard for basic human rights.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs urged caution.
“While we share the goal of a diplomatic solution to this crisis, the Iranian regime has a long record of exploiting diplomacy as a cover to advance its nuclear program. The success of today’s agreement depends on Iran’s actions, not its words,” CIJA chair David Cape said in a statement.
“The government of Canada has been a world leader in countering Iran’s nuclear program by severing diplomatic ties with Tehran, engaging our allies, and holding the regime to account at the UN,” Cape added. “Canada’s two major opposition parties have supported sanctions and called for strong verification measures to determine Iranian compliance, a non-partisan consensus that should be reaffirmed in the wake of today’s announcement. We urge officials in Ottawa to ensure that any relief of independent Canadian sanctions is strictly contingent on tangible and significant Iranian progress in fulfilling its obligations. We also trust that Canada’s position, now and in the future, continues to reflect an understanding and consideration of the legitimate security concerns of the Israeli People.”
Cape also said the international community must hold the Iranian regime “accountable for its persecution and repression of its own people at home and its promotion of terrorism abroad,” including against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide.
“Hasty sanctions relief will no doubt be used by Iran to fund this reprehensible agenda. Regardless of today’s announcement, Canada and the international community must continue to use economic and diplomatic tools to counter the threat posed by the regime to regional peace, global security, and domestic human rights.”
Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto, said he’s disappointed in the Obama administration, which led efforts to broker the deal.
Though it could keep Iran’s nuclear program at bay for the moment, he said, it won’t stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons in 10 years or less.
“We believe a deal should have been not a negotiation but one whereby Iran doesn’t have the capacity to have nuclear weapons ever, where infrastructure is destroyed,” Benlolo said.
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, says his organization finds the deal lacking because it may allow Iran to deny inspections of its facilities and for Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear infrastructure directly related to weapons development.
He warned of a regional arms race that could be sparked by the agreement, saying, “Iran’s history as the world’s premier sponsor of terror, continued pursuit of a ballistic missile program and the recent government-inspired rallies on so called ‘Al-Quds Day’ featuring chants of 'death to America' are prime reasons to remain skeptical.”
He added that the negotiations also did not address Iran’s support for organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder pointed out that Iran has failed in the past to live up to its treaty obligations.
“I fear we may have entered into an agreement that revives the Iranian economy but won’t stop this regime from developing nuclear arms in the long term, which would have disastrous consequences for the entire region and the world,” Lauder said in a statement, calling the agreement “just a piece of paper” and “not a legally binding treaty.”
The American Jewish Committee praised the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the other government officials that “turned [U.S. President Barack Obama’s] vision into a reality.”
“It is now incumbent on the United States Congress, pursuant to the provisions of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, to thoroughly review, debate, and, ultimately, vote it up or down,” AJC executive director David Harris said in a statement. “However Congress decides to vote on the nuclear deal, the need for vigilance regarding Iran will not for a single moment be diminished.”
The European Friends of Israel called on European Union officials and the governments of the EU states “to speak out against this dangerous deal, which also represents a direct threat to the EU and the national security of European citizens.” The group called the deal “a clear, unmistakable surrender to Iran by the West, including the EU, which was a key member of the negotiations.”
All the groups expressed concern over repeated calls in Iran, including in recent days, for the annihilation of Israel and “death to America.”
The Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that is sharply critical of Israel and which supports the boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state while advocating the lifting of sanctions against Iran, applauded the deal, saying in a statement that “a negotiated agreement is the only way to alleviate international concern about Iran’s nuclear program and avert war.”
With files from Jodie Shupac