Tehran has called the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress on Iran’s nuclear talks deceitful and a desperate attempt to impose an irrational agenda.
In his speech to Congress, Netanyahu said that the world must stand together to stop Iran from gaining access to a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies accusations it wishes to produce such a weapon and is currently in talks with the US and other powers over its nuclear programme.
Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president, said on Tuesday that Netanyahu was trying to derail the negotiations.
“I don’t think it carries much weight. Well, they’re [Israeli government] making their efforts to somehow derail the deal…,” Ebtekar said.
“But I think the more logical lobbies in both sides are looking forward to a solution.”
US President Barack Obama dismissed Netanyahu’s speech, saying the Israeli leader did not offer any alternatives.
|Analysis from Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara|
Netanyahu’s supporters in Israel and the US have lots to celebrate after his speech to Congress. The prime minister sounded bold, confident and resolute. He defended what they perceive as Israel’s case against Iran, by detailing Tehran’s schemes and transgressions in the region and beyond, and elaborated on why the Iranian regime is incurable and hence any deal is a bad deal with a bad regime.
Netanyahu’s detractors on the other hand must have rolled their eyes as he repeated the same old tired mantras and selective claims against Iran. When Netanyahu spoke about Iran defying international weapons inspectors, hiding nuclear programmes and exploiting theology to advance their interests, it sounded like he was talking about his Israel.
In reality, Netanyahu spoke of exacting tougher conditions on Iran to reach a better deal, all of which White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said were unachievable. Hence, for all practical matters, the Israeli prime minister has left the US Congress and the world with one option only: war.
It’s not clear whether Netanyahu has changed many peoples’ minds in Congress and beyond. I doubt it. But he did mount an unprecedented assault by an Israeli leader on the US president. And this will certainly have long term implications.
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In a similar speech in 2012, Netanyahu warned the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 percent of the way to completing its “plans to build a nuclear weapon”.
However, a secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed last month that at the time of the UN speech Mossad – Israel’s intelligence service – believed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”.
Obama says ‘nothing new’
In the speech on Cogress, which escalated the Israeli leader’s campaign against Obama’s diplomacy with Iran, Netanyahu said on that there was a need to “stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror”.
In response, Obama said: “I am not focused in the politics of this. I am not focused on the theatre.
“As far as I can tell, there was nothing new.
“On the core issue, which is how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous, the prime minister did not offer any viable alternatives.”
Iran and international powers have set a deadline of late March to reach a framework agreement and June for a comprehensive final settlement.
The powers want to curb Iran’s nuclear programme to ensure it cannot develop an atomic bomb, and Iran wants crippling economic sanctions to be lifted.
Obama said there was no deal with Iran yet, but if the negotiations turned out to be successful, the agreement would be “the best deal possible”.
However, Netanyahu said that the proposed Iran nuclear deal would leave Iran with a “vast” nuclear programme and that the world should demand that Tehran stops its aggression towards its neighbours before lifting restrictions.
“If the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran, that deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – it will all but guarantee that Iran will get those nuclear weapons – lots of them.”
RELATED: Netanyahu’s reception muted by political tensions
Netanyahu was greeted at the Congress by a long standing ovation.
However, at least 50 Democratic members refused to attend the speech to protest against what they see as a politicisation of Israeli security, an issue on which Congress usually unites.
Following Netanyahu’s speech, Mitch McConnell, the US Senate majority leader, said on Tuesday the Senate would begin debating next week a bill that would require Obama to submit any final nuclear deal with Iran for approval by Congress.
“We think it will help prevent the administration from entering into a bad deal,” McConnell said.
“But if they do, it will provide an opportunity for Congress to weigh in.”
However, the White House has said Obama would veto the bill.