Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spent much of their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday discussing how to address the threat of Iranian weaponry aimed at its neighbors in the Middle East.
Also attending the meeting were – inter alia – National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron, Prime Minister’s Office Acting Director General Ronen Peretz, National Economic Council Chairman Avi Simhon.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing held by the two men at the Prime Minister’s Office, Mnuchin said the United States has “executed a maximum pressure campaign for sanctions; they have worked, they are working, they are cutting off the money.
“We will continue to ramp up more, more more,” he added, commenting to Netanyahu that he had just finished a “very productive working lunch” with the prime minister’s “team,” who he said had given their American counterparts “a bunch of very specific ideas that we will be following up.”
Netanyahu repeated his congratulations on the assassination of Islamic State terrorist leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, and his warning that “we still have an ongoing battle against terrorism, both of the extremist Sunnis led by Da’esh but also the extremist Shiites led by Iran, that is making a plunge for everything and everywhere in the Middle East.”
Specifically, Netanyahu said, Iran is seeking to develop new precision-guided munitions, “missiles that can hit any target in the Middle East with a circumference of five to ten meters. They are developing this in Iran. They want to place them in Iraq and in Syria, and to convert Lebanon’s arsenal of 130,000 statistical rockets to precision-guided munitions. They seek also to develop that, and have already begun to put that in Yemen, with the goal of reaching Israel from there too,” he said.
“They fired into Saudi Arabia. They’ve interfered with international shipping lanes. They’ve attacked Americans and they’ve killed Americans throughout the last ten years in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Iran is the single greatest threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.
“That doesn’t mean that there are no others,” Netanyahu added. “The Middle East is rich with several things, and one of them is terrorist-exporting nations and groups.”
The United States is leading the way in fighting Middle East terror specifically in two ways, the prime minister contended — in one way, in the generous military assistance rendered to Israel each year, and second, “in the effort that you and President Trump lead all the time, which is the increase of sanctions against Iran. You have recently added the anti-money laundering sanctions, which apply to the banks. That’s a very powerful tool, in addition to others that you put forward. And I encourage you to put even more.
“Iran’s capacity … to launch its aggression, to develop its weapons of death, to purvey its menacing ways … is diminished to the extent that you can tighten your sanctions and make the availability of cash more difficult for them. We see this in every part of the Middle East. I want to thank you for what you’ve been doing, and encourage you, Steve, to do more, more, a lot more – and thank you for your friendship,” Netanyahu said.