This article titled “Israel’s Netanyahu tours Europe to lobby leaders against Iran” was written by Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem and Patrick Wintour, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th June 2018 16.14 Asia/Kolkata
Benjamin Netanyahu has embarked on a three-day trip to Europe to push leaders in Germany, France and Britain away from the Iran nuclear deal and convince them of the need to dislodge Tehran’s military from neighbouring Syria.
The Israeli prime minister has signalled a desire to keep talks focused on his archenemy. “I will meet there with three leaders and will discuss two subjects: Iran and Iran,” he said at the airport ahead of his trip on Monday.
However, the 68-year-old leader is likely to face queries about the Israeli military’s recent use of live fire against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
Troops have killed more than 120 people along the frontier and shot thousands more during two months of rallies calling, among other demands, for an end to Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave.
The army points to attempts to damage the perimeter fence with explosives and set fields alight in Israel using firebombs, moves that undermine claims by Gaza’s rulers Hamas that the movement is entirely peaceful. However, most of the dead and wounded were unarmed. On Friday, a female volunteer medic was shot dead.
Netanyahu flew on Monday morning to Berlin, where he is due to meet Angela Merkel, before flying to Paris to speak with Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. He will then travel to Britain for a meeting with Theresa May.
His visit follows a diplomatic victory last month when the US president, Donald Trump, announced Washington was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. The hawkish Israeli premier – who calls the Iranian government a “terrorist regime” – has long led lobbying efforts against the deal.
Signed in 2015 under the leadership of Barack Obama, the landmark accord traded sanction relief on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The UK, France and Germany, also parties to the agreement, issued a statement soon after Trump’s declaration expressing their “regret and concern” and emphasising their “continuing commitment” to the deal.
Iran has also continued to abide by the agreement. However, several top officials have suggested it may resume its enrichment activities unless the European Union presents a compensation package to make up for income loss resulting from the fresh US sanctions.
Trump and Netanyahu have criticised the deal’s perceived shortcomings, warning about “sunset” provisions that end restrictions on nuclear activities after 10 years, as well as permitting the continued development of long-range missiles.
In a televised presentation days before Trump was due to make a decision, Netanyahu revealed what he said was new evidence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The material shown did not present a breach of the deal but European leaders suggested it showed evidence of Iran’s pre-2015 nuclear programme that they said only reinforced the need for the agreement, which includes regular inspections.
Netanyahu said he would share the stolen cache with the US and other countries and is expected to discuss the findings during his trip.
The Middle East has been on edge following Trump’s withdrawal. Less than two days after the announcement, Israel accused Iranian forces in Syria of firing rockets at its forces in the Golan Heights, the first direct strikes on Israeli positions. Israel responded with its most extensive attack on Syria for decades.
The Netanyahu visit came as the director general of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said his inspectors had access to all the sites his team needed to visit in Iran.
Speaking in Vienna at the first meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors since Trump threw the future of the deal in doubt, Yukiya Amano rebutted suggestions that Iran was not cooperating.
Netanyahu’s European visit is in some ways targeted at the credibility of the IAEA. The majority of the board’s members are likely to issue statements through the week challenging the US decision to withdraw, and the repeated Israeli intelligence claim that Iran is secretly preparing a nuclear bomb.
Amano urged Tehran to go further in showing its willingness to reassure, saying “timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access would facilitate implementation … and enhance confidence”.
Some diplomats say Tehran could, for example, invite inspectors to sites they had not demanded access to.
In its last report, the IAEA confirmed Iran was still implementing the accord.
The other signatories to the 2015 joint comprehensive plan of action are still working on economic measures to keep the nuclear deal alive. None of the European powers are likely to accept Netanyahu’s criticisms of the deal.
The EU has urged Israel to send any secret information about non-compliance to the IAEA.
Netanyahu will also use his European tour to warn against Iran’s military entrenchment in its northern neighbour, where Tehran has sent forces to support President Assad in a devastating seven-year civil war.
Israel has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate Iranian forces so close and has conducted repeated overt and covert strikes on Syrian bases that house Iranian troops, drones and munitions.
Officials in Russia, an Assad ally that also has forces in Syria, have hinted in recent days that there may soon be an agreement for Iran to move its garrisons away from Israeli territory, but there has been no confirmation.
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