As world powers reconvene talks with Iran ahead of next month's deadline for a deal over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "a thousand times more dangerous" than ISIS.
In a meeting with visiting US Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in Jerusalem Tuesday, Netanyahu once more emphasized Israel's position that the looming deal is a "very bad" one, and cautioned western states not to "rush" talks for the sake of reaching a deal at any costs.
"I see no reason to rush to a deal, and certainly not a bad deal that paves Iran’s path to the bomb, but also fills Iran’s coffers with tens of billions of dollars to pursue its aggression throughout the Middle East and around Israel’s borders," Netanyahu said.
"I think it’s important to apply pressure to get a better deal, one that avoids these two pitfalls, and I believe that this is necessary and urgent and possible for both our countries."
Iran has stepped up its aggressive foreign policy, arming client states and proxies throughout the Middle East in what security experts have cited as proof that Tehran has been emboldened by western concessions in nuclear talks.
Fears have been raised that the billions of dollars Iran would gain from promised sanctions relief – in exchange for minimal concessions on its nuclear program – would be funneled to terrorist groups and other militias fomenting instability in the region.
Netanyahu also warned western audiences not to allow the threat posed by Shia Islamist Iran to be eclipsed by the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.
"I will say this: ISIS is in the news. Its murderous actions are horrific," noted Netanyahu.
However, he added, "as horrific as ISIS is, once Iran, the preeminent terrorist state of our time, acquires nuclear weapons, it will be a hundred times more dangerous, a thousand times more dangerous and more destructive than ISIS."
"I think we have to resist both ISIS and Iran," he insisted. "We shouldn’t give Iran a path to nuclear weapons and billions of dollars to pursue aggression because of ISIS. ISIS should be fought; Iran should be stopped."
"We welcome the partnership, bipartisan, with the United States because we think that the relationship between Israel and the United States is a precious asset for both countries. Everyone in Israel thinks so as I do."
Iranian Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi will meet European Union deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid – who will represent the P5+1 world powers – in Vienna on Wednesday, as the sides attempt to implement the framework deal reached in April ahead of a June 30 deadline.