WASHINGTON -- Less than 48 hours before the start of final talks on Iran’s nuclear program, set to begin Tuesday in Vienna, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on American television to warn the Obama administration against agreeing to a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
“Iran is not your ally; Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy,” Netanyahu said Sunday on CBS "Face the Nation."
Israel is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. But relations between the two countries have become strained in recent months, as the U.S. participates in multi-party talks aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting economic and trade sanctions against the country.
According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, about 9 in 10 Israelis report an unfavorable view of Iran. Netanyahu reiterated his longstanding concerns on Sunday about allowing the country to have any nuclear capability whatsoever, including the ability to generate electricity using nuclear power.
Netanyahu spoke on CBS the same day that a new video appeared to show an American citizen executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Netanyahu called the apparent killing the latest chapter in "a global conflict" where Iran and the Islamic State present the same threat to Western democracies.
"Basically, the Middle East is awash with militant dissidents, led by al Qaeda and the ISIS on the Sunni side … [and] Iran and Hezbollah on the Shiite side,” Netanyahu said, referring to the two branches of Islam. “The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction.”
Ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Israel were exacerbated recently by reports that President Barack Obama sent a letter to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which the president described how the U.S. and Iran might advance their common interest in defeating the Islamic State.
For Israel, the prospect that its most important ally, America, would collaborate with its sworn enemy, Iran, could signal that the Obama administration may consider the fight against the Islamic State a higher priority, at least in the short-term, than threats to Israel's safety.
But rather than dwell on his chilly relationship with the Obama White House, the prime minister on Sunday emphasized the broad support Israel enjoys in Congress and among the American public. “We can have disagreements between governments, that happens in the best of families,” he said. “But we are one family.”