by Jonathan Ferziger
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will emphasize the need for a united international response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests when he meets with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday, just days ahead of his White House visit with President Donald Trump.
“On the diplomatic front, my emphasis will be on assembling a partnership against Iran’s defiant aggression, which has reared its head in recent days,” Netanyahu told cabinet ministers at their weekly meeting Sunday in Jerusalem, according to a text message from his office.
Netanyahu was scheduled to leave for London on Sunday to meet with May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. They will also discuss strengthening security, trade and technology ties between Israel and the U.K., he said. The Israeli leader said last week that Iran will be at the top of his agenda when he meets Trump on Feb. 15.
Having failed to block world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu is trying to drum up international support for a harder line against Tehran now that Trump has taken office. The U.S. president, who has denounced the pact as a “disaster” and said he will scrap it or renegotiate it, imposed new penalties on Iran on Friday after it acknowledged carrying out a ballistic missile test.
The launch was the first test of the fledgling Trump administration’s policy on Iran and it has escalated frictions between the two nations. The testing falls outside the purview of the nuclear deal, and Iran has said it didn’t violate a related United Nations Security Council resolution that extended a ban on any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
Iran has denied ever having a nuclear weapons program, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country’s missiles aren’t designed to carry nuclear warheads and are solely meant for self-defense.
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The Iranian military carried out further missile tests on Saturday after Trump applied sanctions to 13 individuals and 12 companies or government entities in response to the original launch. While the actions were limited in scope, and appeared to be an extension of the Obama administration’s restricted penalties for missile activity, his language sounded a warning: “Iran is playing with fire — they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me,” he tweeted.
Iran parried with tough talk of its own. “If the enemy falls out of line, our missiles will pour down on them, Amir Ali Jahizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace division, was cited as saying.
Netanyahu, aboard the plane to London, heralded “a new era of diplomatic opportunities and challenges.”
“I’m going to explore them in Washington next week and London tomorrow,” he said. “The Iranians know what I’m talking about and they’re testing the boundaries.”