Locating secret deals with U.S. companies to develop Israeli nuclear arms has been a dominant theme in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. He has argued that the deal made with Iran under President Barack Obama amounts to a “historic mistake” for Israel that will usher Tehran into a nuclear arms race.
Netanyahu said Thursday that he believed his government would be exempt from obligations to comply with the deal.
“If for some reason we are blocked or compelled to make a decision [about starting a nuclear weapons program], we will notify the international community, the U.S. State Department and the European Union that we are no longer bound by the agreement,” Netanyahu said at the White House with President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu said Trump and Israel were “in the same boat,” but if Israel enters an arms race with Iran, Iran will go after the U.S. with a nuclear weapon “in the same heartbeat as if it is an Israeli reactor or nuclear site,” Netanyahu said.
“The agreement will strengthen Iran’s illegal nuclear program and might actually hasten its joining the nuclear club,” the prime minister said.
Obama and U.S. allies struck the nuclear deal with Iran last July, after years of negotiations over the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The agreement curbs Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon while giving the U.S. and other global powers sanctions relief in exchange for monitoring and dismantling parts of its nuclear program.
The Iran deal is meant to be built on a foundation of strong nonproliferation, America’s acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Victoria Nuland, said at an Institute for America roundtable discussion this week.
But Trump, who remains deeply skeptical of the agreement, believes it is inadequate in ensuring Iran’s willingness to limit its nuclear capabilities in the future. In particular, he thinks the deal punishes America and won’t prevent Iran from pursuing long-range ballistic missiles.
Trump has long argued that sanctions relief under the agreement should be done as a contingent on it proving to be effective in preventing Iran from going nuclear.
“The Supreme Leader, who can veto this deal, he signed it because it’s filled with loopholes,” Trump said. “They didn’t have enough money to build their own centrifuges, their own bombs, but they got some billions of dollars that they could never have gotten through this deal.”
Trump, who was just as firm at the White House when it came to Israel’s capabilities to produce weapons, suggested that the deal isn’t tough enough on the Islamic Republic.
“The only deal that brings Iran back into a sanctions regime, into the fold of compliance, is a real, live, real sanctions regime,” Trump said.
– CNN’s Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.