Netanyahu slams European ‘rush to appease Iran’ by sidestepping sanctions

As 6 nations join INSTEX barter system, PM calls move a betrayal of Middle Easterners ‘standing up to Iran and its henchmen’; says Europeans ‘should be ashamed of themselves’


Source: The Times of Israel


Israel on Sunday scolded six new European members of the INSTEX barter mechanism meant to circumvent US sanctions on Iran, saying they encouraged the Iranian regime’s repression of its citizens and “should be ashamed of themselves.”

“While the Iranian regime is killing its own people, European countries rush to support that very murderous regime,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged in a video released Sunday.

In a separate statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said “Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden could not have picked worse timing. The hundreds of innocent Iranians murdered during the latest round of protests are rolling in their graves.”

Protests broke out across sanctions-hit Iran on November 15, hours after a sharp fuel price hike was announced.

Iraqi anti-government protesters
Iraqi anti-government protesters burn an Iranian flag during protests in Baghdad, Iraq, November 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Reports of deaths and arrests emerged as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, gas stations and police stations torched.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has said that 161 demonstrators were killed.

A 2015 international agreement set out restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions. The deal was opposed by Israel, which argued that Iran’s regime would find ways to violate the agreement, and would use the breathing room to expand its ballistic missile program and support for terror groups throughout the region.

Last year, the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal and reinstated crippling sanctions against Tehran. The INSTEX system is designed to sidestep the sanctions and keep the deal afloat.

A man exchanges Iranian Rials
A man exchanges Iranian Rials for US Dollars at an exchange shop in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on August 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare/File)

Israel has praised the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic. But Netanyahu lamented on Sunday that European nations were in a “rush to appease” Tehran.

Pointing to mass protests against Iran-backed regimes and groups throughout the region, from Iraq to Lebanon to Iran itself, Netanyahu said the people of the region were “fed up. They’re fed up with corruption. They’re fed up with failing economies. They’re fed [up] with the siphoning off of their treasure and their lives to Iran’s wars of aggression in the region.

“And while the people of the Middle East bravely stand up to Iran and its henchmen, here’s the absurd thing: While all of this is happening, countries in Europe are working to bypass US sanctions against Iran…. While Iran bombs Saudi Arabia’s oil installations, while Iran rushes to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, European countries rush to appease Iran with even more concessions.”

In an apparent reference to World War II, the Israeli leader added: “These European countries should be ashamed of themselves. Have they learned nothing from history? Well, apparently not.

“They are enabling a fanatic terrorist state to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, thereby bringing disaster to themselves and upon everyone else.”

The Paris-based INSTEX functions as a clearing house allowing Iran to continue to sell oil and import other products or services in exchange. The system has not yet enabled any transactions.

Iran has gradually increased enrichment and the stockpiling of nuclear material in contravention of the 2005 agreement, as a means of pressuring Europe to bolster the INSTEX system. European countries have expressed alarm at Iran’s moves, but say they remain committed to the nuclear accord.

The accession of the six new members “further strengthens INSTEX and demonstrates European efforts to facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran,” France, Germany, and Britain said.

It represents “a clear expression of our continuing commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” — the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — the trio added.

They insisted Iran must return to full compliance with its commitments under the deal “without delay.”