“History will change” if Iran becomes a nuclear-armed state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in an interview with a Persian-language TV network that Tehran has labeled a “terrorist organization.”
In an interview Iran International TV aired on Thursday, Netanyahu said that that the prospect of a regime “committed to the destruction” of his country possessing nuclear weapons was unthinkable.
“Imagine if they have the weapons of the greatest terror, nuclear weapons with which they can hold the entire world hostage. So I say to Western leaders, to world leaders: history will change if Iran [gets] nuclear weapons,” he said.
In November, Iran’s Intelligence Minister described Iran International as a “terrorist organization.” The station announced last month that it would relocate from London to Washington on the advice of UK police, citing alleged threats from Iran.
“The imperative now is to free the Iranian people, both for their own sake but also for our common security,” the Israeli leader said. “We cannot let this radical Islamic terrorist regime that oppresses its people [and] terrorizes everyone else have the weapons of mass death. This will change history and we have to stop it before it happens.”
Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and for a “credible military response and a military threat against the potential development of nuclear weapons” by Iran.
He warned that if the Islamic Republic acquired nuclear weapons, it would feel “invulnerable” and seek to “buy immunity” from being overthrown.
“Once they have nuclear weapons … they’ll feel that they’re there forever. And one of the things that they want through the acquisition of nuclear weapons is … to be able to be free from the threat of being deposed. They think they’ll buy immunity,” he said.
This week, the US, Britain, France and Germany expressed concern over Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 84 percent purity, just under the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear bomb, and called for an explanation from Iran.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it has not attempted to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent purity.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which Netanyahu opposes, have stalled since last year.
The 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Netanyahu believes the deal is too generous to Tehran.
Former US President Donald Trump, who also thought the deal was too soft on Iran, withdrew Washington from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran.
Iran responded by expanding its nuclear program, breaching most of the deal’s restrictions.
Grossi comments ‘totally wrong’
Netanyahu criticized comments made by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi, who during a visit to Tehran earlier this month said that any military attack on nuclear facilities would be considered illegal.
“(Grossi) said something totally wrong and inappropriate. There is nothing more legitimate than preventing a regime that openly calls for your destruction from having the weapons to achieve that goal,” said Netanyahu.
“We will maintain our right to defend ourselves and in so doing defend many others, including the people of Iran,” he added.
He said that whether there will be a direct military conflict between Israel and Iran depends on Tehran.
Netanyahu added that the recent protest movement in Iran had “unmasked the true nature” of the Iranian regime, which he described as the “common enemy” of Iranians and Israelis. He expressed the hope that a different government in Tehran would lead to a friendship between Israel and Iran “surpass[ing] anything that we can imagine.”
Iran experienced months of protests following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died on September 16 shortly after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress rules for women.
The protests, which quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, were met with a violent crackdown from authorities, who viewed the protests as “riots” backed by foreign powers, namely the US and Israel.