Netanyahu: Unprecedented Iran protests have led to US ‘rethinking’ of nuclear deal

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Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran are unprecedented and that they have led to Washington “rethinking” the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

To read the full transcript, click here.

The current protests have swept across Iran since September 16 when 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died after being detained by the so-called morality police in Tehran.

They are the most significant demonstrations since the 1979 revolution that led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Netanyahu said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

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“If you look at what is happening now, since 1979, nothing like this has happened,” Netanyahu said.

“Initially, people thought well, it’s like the green revolution [of 2009], but it’s not. It’s stronger.”

The unrest today in Iran reflects the “weakness” of the Iranian regime, which unlike other regional powers like Israel and Saudi Arabia, has “not done anything" for its people, Netanyahu said.

The Islamic Republic’s failure to meet its citizens’ basic needs as well as its failure to implement reforms has led to the current situation in Iran, the Israeli politician said.

The Iranian regime is committed to a “radical ideology” that is “bad” for Iranians and everyone else, Netanyahu added.

“They don’t work for their people. They work for a radical ideology that is bad for Iranians, bad for Arabs, bad for Israelis, bad for Americans and everyone else in between.”

Netanyahu said it was too soon to say whether the protests will lead to the downfall of the regime.

‘Rethinking’ in Washington regarding the JCPOA

Netanyahu said the protests have also led to a “rethinking” in the US concerning the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“I think there is a re-thinking in Washington. From the initial contacts that we have [had with the Biden administration], I think there’s a rethinking of that. And I’m glad there is,” he said.

Under President Joe Biden, resurrecting the 2015 deal has been a foreign policy priority. Since April 2021, the Biden administration has sought through indirect talks with Iran to reenter the deal, which Washington pulled out of in 2018 under former President Donald Trump.

But efforts to revive the agreement have stalled for months, even since before the current protests in Iran.

The original deal offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for strict but temporary curbs on its nuclear program.

The “courage” of Iranian protesters has led “a lot of people” to give up on the JCPOA, Netanyahu said.

‘Horrible agreement’

Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to the JCPOA, calling it a “horrible agreement.”

He said he opposes the deal because the sanctions relief it offers Iran would not go to the Iranian people. He also said the deal fails to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state.

Israel will do “whatever is necessary” – with or without consent from the US – to stop Iran from having a nuclear arsenal, Netanyahu said.

“I want to protect [Israel] against Iran’s aggression, and against a regime that openly calls for the annihilation of my country. With or without an agreement [from the US],” he said.

He added: “I won't go into the operational or technical details. But I will say that unless you’re able to have a credible military option against rogue states that are trying to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, you won’t stop them.”

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