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Netanyahu to press Trump on quitting Iran deal, but military leadership divided

Le président des Etats-Unis Donald Trump (g) et le Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu, le 23 mai 2017 à Jérusalem
AFP
Meanwhile, Iran accuses US 'seeking excuses' to destroy nuclear deal ahead of October certification deadline

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press United States President Donald Trump to scrap the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran when the two leaders meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week despite reservations among top officials in Israel's military and intelligence community, Haaretz reported Friday.

Israel's debate on the issue mirrors that taking place within Trump's administration, which is currently weighing the fate of the deal ahead of a mid-October deadline by which the US must certify whether or not Iran has upheld its committments under the accord.

A report by the Haaretz daily on Friday citing anonymous senior government and defense officials said that while Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman believe the US quitting the deal to be in Israel's best interest, experts in Israel's Military Intelligence, the IDF’s Planning Directorate, the Mossad, the Foreign Ministry, and the Atomic Energy Committee believe otherwise.

According to the report, those military and intelligence bodies which are concerned with Iran concur that Iran has not been found in violation of the 2015 deal, which saw the US and six world powers lift crippling economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

MENAHEM KAHANA (AFP/File)

They suggest that Iran's apparent compliance with the accord gives it an advantage in the opinion of the international community, and furthermore, that an American withdrawal would not isolate Iran nor expose it to new international sanctions, with other world powers unlikely to follow the US in quitting the accord.

"Like in the United States, we have disagreements on this issue,” an Israeli official told Haaretz. “If you ask Netanyahu and Lieberman, they see eye-to-eye with each other, but the security establishment doesn’t necessary share their views.”

Israeli officials said that Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, are urging Trump and his top advisers not to recertify the agreement and declare Iran in noncompliance, Haaretz reports.

Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the deal, on Thursday extended the nuclear-related sanctions relief under the accord. But the long-term future of the deal is far from decided. 

The fate of the deal is likely to be discussed when Netanyahu and Trump meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Both leaders are also set to deliver addresses at the forum which will likley reference the subject.

US 'seeking excuses' to destroy nuclear deal: Iran

Iran, meanwhile, accused the US on Friday of "seeking excuses" to tear up the nuclear deal by demanding military site inspections.

"Iran has no undisclosed nuclear activity in any geographical location in the country," the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said on state television.

"The issues being raised are media hype by the Americans so that they can refrain from fulfilling their obligations."

BEHROUZ MEHRI (AFP/File)

Washington has reportedly demanded inspections of Iranian military sites as part of verifying compliance with the deal. 

The United Nations has stated there is no obligation to carry out military site inspections unless there are suspicions of illicit activity. It says it has doubled inspections in Iran since the deal and has no evidence that nuclear material has been shifted to military or other sites.

Shamkhani accused the administration of President Donald Trump of "unconstructive and excuse-seeking behavior... which is an active attempt to damage this international agreement".

He echoed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who tweeted on Thursday that the idea of reworking the nuclear deal was "pure fantasy". 

"The #JCPOA is not (re)negotiable. A 'better' deal is pure fantasy. About time for U.S. to stop spinning and begin complying, just like Iran," Zarif wrote.

Zarif is due to meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the foreign ministers of other signatories of the nuclear deal on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next Wednesday.

(Staff with agencies)

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Is time the must stop focusing energy about North Korea and voice out the genocide taking place in Biafra by the Islamic government in Nigeria. They are exterminating our Biafran brethren.

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