For more than 15 years and more than any other world leader, Benjamin Netanyahu demanded sanctions against Iran to stop it from getting nuclear weapons. Now, as the sanctions are credited with weakening the Iranian economy enough to prompt a thaw between the U.S. and the Islamic nation, the Israeli prime minister is among the skeptics who remain unconvinced that anything significant has changed.
Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly today that the "soothing rhetoric" offered by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is contradicted by country's "savage record" of sponsoring global terror attacks and continued development of its nuclear program. "The pressure on Iran must continue," Netanyahu said. "When it comes to Iran's nuclear program here's my advice: distrust, dismantle, verify."
In office, Netanyahu has prodded American and European leaders for a tougher line and said Israel would consider military strikes to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons should diplomacy fail. Out of office, too, he devoted time to the issue.
Going back about two decades, Netanyahu would travel to state capitals across the U.S., urging pension funds to stop investments in Iran, according to an official traveling with the prime minister in the U.S. this week, who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak on record.
"Netanyahu appreciated more than most that sanctions are held together by a dual fear of the threat of Israeli military strikes and U.S. financial penalties," said Mark Dubowitz,executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. "He's deeply concerned that any sanctions relief will lead to sanctions dismantlement, with no way to reconstitute if and when the Iranians cheat."