Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded an alarm Tuesday over Iran’s recent claims to want a nuclear accord with the West, accusing the Islamic Republic’s moderate new president of waging a “charm offensive” to get sanctions lifted while still actively pursuing atomic bombs.
Netanyahu’s address to the U.N. General Assembly sought to dispel a mood of cautious optimism created last week when Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif vowed to put the nuclear dispute to rest and ease more than 30 years of hostility in U.S.-Iranian relations.
Netanyahu called Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.” When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, Netanyahu said, Rouhani only differs from his confrontational predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in that “Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing.”
The Iranian regime is under intense pressure from the population to get sanctions relief, Netanyahu said. “That’s why Rouhani got elected in the first place, and why he has launched his charm offensive. He definitely wants sanctions lifted, but he doesn’t want to give up Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return.”
Urging the international community to stand tough on sanctions until suspected nuclear arms sites are fully dismantled, Netanyahu said this was no time to ease up on the measures forcing Tehran to consider concessions.
Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama on Monday, when the two leaders discussed the prospects for resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran.
“Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan famously advised ‘trust but verify,’ ” Netanyahu recalled of the West’s dealing with the Soviet Union in nuclear arms reduction talks. “My advice now is distrust, dismantle and verify.”