Israel Compares Europe's Iran Nuclear Deal Decision to Appeasing Nazi Germany Before World War II

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has compared the European Union's decision to not formally accuse Iran of violating a 2015 nuclear deal after its recent suspension of certain commitments to European powers appeasing Nazi Germany in the lead up to World War II.

Following a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini told reporters Monday that "for the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signaled their intention to invoke" a dispute resolution mechanism in the wake of Iran's decision to enrich uranium slightly beyond the limit outlined in the four-year-old deal struck between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Iran has warned it would decrease its own compliance until European powers could live up to their commitments by defying Washington's unilateral sanctions.

While Mogherini expressed "regret" that Iran took these steps, she said that the parties to the accord did not consider Iran's current non-compliance as "significant" and described them as "reversible." She vowed to empower the special trade vehicle devised by the group to bypass U.S. sanctions "to have Iran fully compliant with its nuclear commitments, as it has been since the beginning until a few weeks ago."

The remarks were deeply criticized by Netanyahu, who posted a video to social media saying the response "reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s" in reference to nations who at the time made concessions to Nazi Germany in order to prevent a conflict⁠. It was a strategy that ultimately empowered Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and helped paved the way for both World War II and the Holocaust.

Netanyahu added: "Even then, someone they buried their heads in the sand and did not see the danger approaching. There are probably some in Europe who will not awake until Iranian missiles fall on European soil."

"In any case, we will do everything to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," he said.

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(From left) Slovenian Foreign Minister Miroslav Cerar, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, Spanish Foreign Minister and nominee EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, Swedish Minister Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg talk prior to an EU foreign affairs ministerial meeting at the European Union Council headquarters, July 15, in Brussels, Belgium. The EU has continued to back the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but invited Tehran to once again comply even as Washington implemented strict sanctions against it in violation of the agreement. Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, but it was subject to international sanctions only lifted by the 2015 deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The historic agreement was widely celebrated abroad, but condemned by leading critics of Iran such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as many conservatives in the U.S.

Upon coming to office in early 2017, President Donald Trump vowed to either renegotiate or scrap the deal and ultimately opted for the latter move last May, imposing the first of what would be a series of escalating sanctions against the Islamic Republic which he accused of funding militant groups and conducting provocative missile tests. The deal's other parties remained supportive of the agreement, but Europe, in particular, has struggled to foster economic ties with Iran for fear of being hit with U.S. sanctions.

As the U.S. accused Iran of posing a greater threat to its regional interests, Tehran announced on the anniversary of Washington's exit that it too would begin stepping back from its commitments. As Iran moved to do so, the U.S. accused it of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and nearly conducted airstrikes in response to the Revolutionary Guards' downing of a drone that they claim entered Iranian airspace.

Netanyahu and Iranian officials have also swapped threats of military action and Israeli jets have continued to target suspected Iran-linked positions in Syria. Iranian forces and militias supportive of the Islamic Republic were supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against an eight-year rebel and jihadi uprising but Israel has accused them of also setting up forward bases capable of striking their neighboring arch-foe.

Assad has also received extensive military support from Moscow, bringing Russia and Iran together in a strategic partnership that has frustrated both the U.S. and Israel. While Russian officials have repeatedly condemned Israeli strikes against Syrian positions allegedly associated with Iran, they have yet to respond with force and at a recent meeting between the national security chiefs of Russia, Israel and the U.S. called for more cooperation between the three.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a video message comparing the European Union's refusal to trigger a dispute resolution mechanism in response to Iran enriching uranium beyond the limit set by a 2015 deal abandoned over a year ago by the U.S., July 15. The EU is struggling to live up to its own commitments under the threat of U.S. economic punishment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Russian Foreign Ministry called for "normalizing the situation around the JCPOA" in a statement published Monday. While calling on Iran to once again comply with the deal's terms, Russian officials have repeatedly laid the blame on the U.S. for withdrawing from the agreement in the first place.

China too has criticized, yet qualified Iran's decision in light of the U.S.'s own non-compliance. In a press conference Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that the "U.S. maximum pressure strategy is the root cause of how the Iranian nuclear issue has come to this pass" and called on Washington to "abandon its wrong course, respect the legitimate rights and interests of other parties, stop obstructing the implementation of the JCPOA, and work towards the political and diplomatic solution of this issue."

As for Iran itself, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Tehran's "voluntary measures—which are based on good faith and within the framework of the JCPOA—hinges on the mutuality of the rights and obligations envisaged in the deal" and warned that "such a path should not be considered a one-way road."

"Iran expects the European parties to the JCPOA to take practical, effective, and responsible decisions and steps regarding the process of implementing the 2015 nuclear deal," Mousavi added, saying that Iran would not reverse course until "it is proved that the European parties have a serious political will and the practical ability to create a balance in implementing the JCPOA commitments and helping Iran reap the benefits of the sanctions removal as enshrined in the JCPOA."