Israeli PM speaks to Iranian people: Nuclear weapons would make authoritarian regime "immortal"

  • Israeli PM speaks to Iranian people: Nuclear weapons would make authoritarian regime "immortal"
  • New poll reflects broad Israeli skepticism toward Iran talks, willingness for Israel to go it alone
  • Syria threatens Turkey will "pay very dearly" for rebel support, sparking renewed fears of regional war
  • Amid comparisons between Iran and North Korea, U.S. diplomats scramble to contain Pyongyang-driven threats


What we’re watching today:


  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Iranian people in a rare interview on Thursday with BBC Persian, declaring to the Islamic republic's citizens that they "deserve better" than the current "brutal regime" and that nuclear weapons acquisition would make the authoritarian Islamist government "immortal." Netanyahu expressed skepticism that newly inaugurated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was either able or willing to significantly reform Iran's policies. Rouhani, a revolutionary-era cleric and consummate regime insider, was for decades a key player in Iran's security establishment and had called for mass roundups of anti-regime figures. More than 170 individuals have reportedly been executed since his election, and his appointed justice minister is reviled by reformers as a mass murderer. Addressing diplomatic overtures being led by Rouhani and aimed at relieving economic sanctions that the West has imposed - overtures that many fear are designed to stall for time while Iran completes its nuclear drive - Netanayhu declared in Persian "we are not sadeh-lowe ['suckers']."


  • A poll published this week by a leading Israeli daily outlined deep Israeli skepticism regarding the possibility that negotiations between Iran and the West will successfully stop what is widely believed to be Tehran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons, matched by broad support for military action if it was required to stop that drive. Israel Hayom conducted the survey and published the numbers, which showed that 84 percent of Israelis did not believe that talks could stop the program and nearly two-thirds supported a unilateral strike to do so. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emphasized that the Iranian regime is likely to use negotiations as a window for locking in nuclear infrastructure on the way toward constructing a weapon. In a speech given earlier this week to the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu warned that Iran's newly inaugurated president Hassan Rouhani should not be trusted. The speech was broadly praised by Israeli media outlets.


  • Hezbollah media is conveying threats from Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, made in an interview on Turkish television, threatening that Turkey will "pay very dearly" for its support of opposition forces battling to overthrow the Assad regime. Assad blasted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as "bigoted" and claimed that Turkey was harboring "terrorists" within its borders, after Erdogan said in an interview that "Syria is headed for a sectarian war." Assad had previously accused Turkey of "playing with fire." Ankara's role in Syria has been tangled: Though it has supported rebel groups, it has been criticized even by U.S. allies for boosting extremists at the expense of U.S.-backed moderate elements. Assad’s statements, made in an interview broadcast Friday, come just weeks after violence near the Syria-Turkey border saw more than a dozen people injured and a Syrian aircraft shot down in Turkish airspace. Erdogan and Assad had for years enjoyed warm personal and diplomatic ties, but Erdogan's government has in the last two years intermittently threatened military action against Assad's forces. The back-and-forth is likely to be read against persistent fears that the Syrian conflict could escalate horizontally into a full-blown war between Syria and one of its neighbors.


  • U.S. policy makers and media outlets have in recent days voiced increasingly explicit concerns that Iran is following the North Korean 'playbook' of stalling for time via negotiations while pursuing a nuclear weapon. The warnings have taken on particular resonance as U.S. diplomats scrambled to contain ongoing cascade effects from North Korean belligerence and brinksmanship. Pyongyang put the region on edge earlier this year by detonating nuclear weapons, cutting off its contacts with the West, and moving to war footing. Washington and Seoul this week signed an agreement this week focused on deterring North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and U.S. experts met with North Korean officials to discuss resuming stalled talks regarding Pyongyang's atomic program.


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