Israel and Egypt Pressured Obama To 'Bomb Iran' Before Nuclear Deal

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. The relationship between the pair disintegrated in the final year of Obama's time in office. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—three of Washington's key Middle East allies—were pressuring former President Barack Obama to "bomb Iran" before the landmark nuclear deal signed in July 2015.

At a forum in Washington D.C., the former diplomat said that two of Iran's Sunni rivals in the region and Israel, the country it considers to be Tehran's arch-enemy, were angling for the U.S. to launch military action against the Islamic Republic.

"Each of them said to me, you have to bomb Iran, it's the only thing they are going to understand," he said.

He said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the strongest opponents of any deal with Iran, was "genuinely agitating towards action" against the country before the agreement was signed.

Kerry also called it a "trap" because those countries would have only publicly criticized the U.S. for military action, despite supporting it in private.

The deal saw Tehran agree with six world powers the rolling back of its nuclear programme in return for a lifting of crippling sanctions on its economy.

Iran's conservative religious leadership regularly threatens Israel with destruction, and President Donald Trump has railed against the deal and Iranian ambitions in the Middle East during his presidential campaign and during his time in office.

He has argued that it has handed back billions of dollars to an Iranian regime that has sought to sow discord in the Middle East through the funding of proxy groups in Lebanon, Yemen and the Gaza Strip.

In October, Trump refused to recertify the deal, putting the decision on the agreement's status at the feet of Congress. Netanyahu called his decision "courageous" as he had "boldly confronted Iran's terrorist regime."

"If the Iran deal is left unchanged, one thing is absolutely certain. In a few years' time, the world's foremost terrorist regime will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons. And that's a tremendous danger for our collective future."

Speaking at the forum, Kerry maintained that it was the best agreement Washington could achieve, as it restricted Iran's nuclear ambitions for more than a decade to come. But the Israeli government, which had strained ties with the Obama administration, has been critical of both Kerry and Obama for their handling of the issue.

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., criticized Kerry for his comments. "Israel, along with other like-minded governments in the Middle East, understood that a credible American military option was the only way to resolve the Iranian nuclear threat, whether militarily or diplomatically," he told The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli deputy minister for diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office said that instead of the deal signed by Obama and world powers, the alternative would have been "a better deal and one of the ways you could get a better deal was to have a credible military threat. The irony was that the more credible the military threat, the less likely you would have to use it."

He said that Kerry "has a particularly acrimonious and sometimes obsessive place for us [Israel], and for the prime minister.

"He also thinks that the Iran nuclear deal was a historic diplomatic achievement. I personally feel that it was the collapse of American credibility in the Middle East and a significant danger to our future and the future of our children. That is a huge difference."