Iran's Rouhani says country's military capabilities have not been diminished by deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel does not oppose a civilian nuclear program in Iran, only a military one.
Netanyahu met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during an official visit to Italy, where he said that last month’s nuclear deal between world powers and Iran allows the Islamic Republic to retain infrastructure that would be unnecessary for a peaceful nuclear program.
“Let me make clear, Matteo, that Israel doesn’t oppose a civilian nuclear program in Iran. We oppose a military nuclear program in Iran,” Netanyahu said. “And regrettably, the deal with Iran allows it to keep and expand a formidable nuclear infrastructure that is completely unnecessary for civilian nuclear purposes, but is entirely necessary for the production of nuclear weapons.”
“The deal will give Iran within 13 years the ability to make as many centrifuges as they want, enrich as much uranium as they want to whatever level that they want,” the Israeli prime minister continued.
“And this will put the Iranian Islamic state that practices terrorism worldwide, it will put it on the threshold of an entire nuclear arsenal,” he added.
Netanyahu went on to say that "before that, Iran will get hundreds of billions of dollars of sanctions relief and investments to fuel its aggression and terrorism in the Middle East, in North Africa and beyond that."
Netanyahu's comments came a day after US President Barack Obama insisted Friday that the recently negotiated deal between Iran and Western powers "blocks every way, every pathway that Iran might take in order to obtain a nuclear weapon."
In a live online address to the US Jewish community co-hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama said that "The commitment to Israel is sacrosanct, non-partisan, and always will be."
"It is important to remember that in this debate we are all pro-Israel. The bond between the US and Israel isn't political, isn't an alliance of convenience. It is grows out of family ties. Bonds that stretch back generations. We are all family," Obama stressed.
Israel and the US have been in discussions about security cooperation for months, Obama said, adding that the talks included possible cooperation on next generation missile defense programs and improved intelligence to "counteract Iranian proxies."
"We've been in discussions with the Israeli government for months now about the importance of us getting back on track in working together to enhance our security cooperation," he said, adding that "we have to stop Iran from sending weapons and missiles to Hezbollah."
"We are not giving up on our ability to respond militarily against Iran if they decide to break out," Obama stressed.
Rouhani flexes his muscles
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani sought to reassure hardliners that the country's military capabilities have not been decreased by last month's nuclear deal.
"With regards to our defensive capability, we did not and will not accept any limitations," Rouhani said at a press conference, according to The New York Times.
"We will do whatever we need to do to defend our country, whether with missiles or other methods."
Iran recently unveiled a new surface-to-surface missile it said could hit targets with pinpoint accuracy within a range of 500 km, putting many of the country's regional rivals within range.
Rouhani has been criticized by hardline factions within Iran's leadership who were against the Islamic Republic entering into negotiations with the West.