Netanyahu warns Merkel of Iran's 'genocidal designs', goal to wage religious war

Olivier Matthys

Olivier Matthys

The world should stand up to bullying behaviour by the United States, Iran's foreign minister said, as he attempts to save a nuclear deal after Washington's withdrawal last month.

Tensions have soared since the Trump administration withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear accord and vowed to restore sanctions unless Iran meets a list of strict demands.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has prepped Iranian scientists to increase its uranium enrichment capacity if its controversial nuclear deal with the U.S. falls apart.

One of Trump's demands - which European allies back in principle - is negotiations to rein in Iran's ballistic missile programme, which was not covered by the nuclear deal.

In case European, Russian and Chinese signatories to the deal prove unable to protect its economic benefits for Iran, Khamenei said, "I have ordered Iran's atomic energy agency to be prepared to upgrade our (uranium) enrichment capacity".

Under the deal, the Islamic Republic curbed its disputed nuclear energy programe and in return won a lifting of most global sanctions that had hobbled its economy.

Trump also objected that the 2015 deal did not address Iran's nuclear work beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

"The consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come", he said, in what seemed a direct warning to Germany, which has faced increasing polarization over its border controls and giving rise to the nationalist AfD, the largest opposition party after capitalizing on anger over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.

"The Iranians military presence right now in Syria includes about 18,000 Shi'a militia, commanded by Iranian commanders", Netanyahu explained.

He said USA "illegal withdrawal" from the deal and its "bullying methods to bring other governments in line" with that decision have discredited the rule of law in worldwide arena.

The possible unraveling of the nuclear deal has raised concerns that the US or Israel might resort to war if Iran ramps up its nuclear activities.

"To that end, Merkel announced at a press conference with Netanyahu following their meeting, "[We] will exert our influence in such a way that Iran is pushed out of this region", with Berlin taking a "very close look at Iran's activities in the region and seek [ing] to contain it", reported the Jerusalem Post.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had lashed out at Israel in a series of tweets earlier in the day. As for curbing Iran's worldwide influence, the supreme leader stressed that "we will continue our support for oppressed nations".

Speaking at a joint press conference in Berlin, Netanyahu referred to Iran's military presence in Syria with its potential to incite a new religious war in the region given the Shiite militias - which he estimated now at 18,000 fighters, but cited iran's plan to reach 80,000 - intent to convert Sunnis. Some regional countries act like their own peoples' enemies...

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