Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his platform at the United Nations Tuesday to voice deep distrust over Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the newly-elected leader’s vows to bring his country’s nuclear program in line with international standards.
“I know Rouhani doesn’t sound like [former President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, but when it comes to Iranians, Ajmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said.
Rouhani on Thursday called for the destruction of all nuclear weapons worldwide, and reiterated that his country’s nuclear program was for civilian energy use only. A day later, President Obama revealed that he and Rouhani spoke by phone, breaking the three-decades-plus silence between the two countries’ top leaders. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday that Iran, with the backing of its supreme leader Ali Khamenei, would allow international inspectors into its nuclear sites as part of negotiations with the United States. Iran, in turn, asked the U.S. to ease up on the crippling sanctions that are imposed on the country for pursuing its nuclear program.
“I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don’t. Because facts are stubborn things and the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric,” Netanyahu said.
He framed Rouhani’s recent overtures toward western political leaders as “a rouse” and “a ploy” aimed at extracting concessions from the international community. Quoting from Rouhani’s past statements and speeches as a nuclear negotiator, Netanyahu aimed to undermine the new Iranian leader’s credibility and expose a different playbook: get the sanctions lifted without dismantling the nuclear program.
“Here’s the strategy to achieve this,” Netanyahu told the U.N. “First, smile a lot. Smiling doesn’t hurt. Second, pay lip service to democracy… Third, offer meaningless concessions in search of lifting the sanctions. Fourth, insure Iran retains sufficient nuclear material [to build a weapon] at the time it chooses to do so,” Netanyahu said.
“You see, Rouhani thinks he can have his yellow cake and eat it too,” he said, referencing the form of enriched uranium used to build nuclear weapons.
President Obama met with Netanyahu Monday at the White House, where he promised to engage in step-by-step negotiations with Iran and to consult Israel along the way. In remarks to reporters alongside Netanyahu, Obama pledged “to take no actions off the table, including military options.”
Netanyahu called for Iran’s nuclear program to be “fully and verifiable dismantled” before the sanctions are lifted. He said that his country would not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, and said “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”
Watch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address at the U.N. here: