United Nations, United States | AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to fight an “Iranian curtain” descending on the Middle East, pledging not to allow Tehran to establish a permanent presence in Syria.
“From the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, from Tehran to Tartus, an Iranian curtain is descending across the Middle East,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly, echoing Winston Churchill’s Cold War declaration of a communist “Iron Curtain.”
“Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril. Israel will defend itself with the full force of our arms and the full power of our convictions,” he said.
“We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces,” he said, also vowing to prevent Iran from producing any weapons that could hit the Jewish state.
Iran — sharing some of the goals of the United States — has been aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iraq’s government in their fights against the Islamic State movement, which has claimed responsibility for a slew of bloody attacks around the world.
Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics are also sworn foes of Israel and have supported the militant movements Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu has long insisted that Iran, which also has tense relations with major Sunni Arab states, is the pre-eminent threat and unsuccessfully fought to scuttle Iran’s 2015 deal with global powers to give up its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Netanyahu said he was proven right and that Iran was “like a hungry tiger unleashed, not joining the community of nations but devouring nations” after the agreement.
The right-leaning Israeli leader heaped praise on US President Donald Trump, who in his own speech hours earlier had said the nuclear agreement with Iran championed by his predecessor Barack Obama was an “embarrassment.”
In years of listening to UN speeches, “none were bolder, none were more courageous and forthright than the one delivered by President Trump today,” Netanyahu said.
UN inspectors say Iran has fulfilled its commitments to give up its nuclear activities under the agreement, which was reached with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
Netanyahu has doubted Iranian intentions and voiced concern that the agreement does not go beyond 2025.