(CNSNews.com) – “Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday. “And I say, let’s make it totter even further.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, Netanyahu focused on the Iranian regime’s belligerent actions across the region, accusing it of trying to stage attacks against Israel and other targeted countries from its own soil and from the territory of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Yemen.
“We are actively engaged in countering that aggression,” he said. “And I think that the Israeli-American cooperation is key to that effort that I think serves the purposes of many, many countries in the region.”
(Netanyahu declined to comment on breaking reports that Israeli warplanes bombed an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps weapons storehouse in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.)
Pompeo pointed to the pushback against Tehran’s actions, noting that Iraqis and Lebanese have been demonstrating against Iran’s influence in their countries, even as Iranians at home protest against their leaders and their policies.
He said that in each of the meetings he participated in with President Trump at the NATO summit in London, “one of the central topics was how to create Middle East stability in this time where there are anti-Iran protests taking place in Baghdad, anti-Iranian protests taking place in Beirut – and we all know what’s going on in Iran itself.”
“Some of these are people that are seeking freedom and a reasonable way to live, and they recognize the threat that is posed by the kleptocrats that are running the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Pompeo said the U.S. had spoken to European allies about “how we can together ensure that we do everything we can to create opportunity for these people who simply want freedom and a chance to live a normal life.”
“You took the words out of my mouth actually,” said Netanyahu. “Because I think the – Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say, let’s make it totter even further.”
‘The wrong thing’
Netanyahu also used the opportunity to criticize, again, European Union countries that have signed up to a mechanism designed to sidestep U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“Instead of joining the United States as the people in Iran and in Lebanon and in Iraq rise up against Iran and its aggression and its proxies, they are trying to sidestep the sanctions that the United States under President Trump [has put in place].”
“That’s the wrong thing,” he said. “The president is doing the right thing.”
INSTEX is a mechanism set up by the three E.U. parties to the Iran nuclear deal, France, Germany and Britain, which aims to enable trade between Iranian and foreign companies while avoiding the U.S. banking system – and therefore dodging U.S. sanctions that were restored when Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord.
On Friday, six additional E.U. countries – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden – announced they were signing on.
The announcement brought a sharply critical tweet from U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell: “Terrible timing – why fund the Iranian regime while its killing the Iranian people and shutting off the internet? You should be standing for human rights not funding the abusers.”
Protests erupted in Iran in mid-November after the announcement of a steep gas price hike and quickly spread to more than 180 towns and cities, in some cases witnessing arson attacks on regime-linked buildings and vehicles.
Accusing foreign enemies of stoking the protests, authorities cracked down, detaining thousands of people and using live ammunition against protestors, killing an unknown number.
An exiled Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said on Wednesday that according to reports it has received, the number of protest-related deaths has risen to 1,029. Its own compilation of the names and locations of those killed has reached 301.
Amnesty International says at least 208 people were killed, Iranian authorities have not released an official tally.
The Trump administration has supported the protestors from the outset, both in public statements and also by urging Iranians to submit images and information about regime abuses against protestors. Tens of thousands of messages were received via a State Department Telegram channel.
The U.S. Treasury Department also designated for sanctions the regime’s communications minister, in response to a near-total shutdown of the Internet during the first week of protests.
The Iranian regime makes no secret of its loathing of Israel. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei periodically predicts its destruction; and just last month President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” and a “fake regime” established by Western countries.
On Wednesday Khamenei on Twitter accused any Muslim government that supports or negotiates with “the criminal Israeli regime” of betraying the Palestinian cause.
A day earlier, he called the U.S. government “our main enemy” and “one of the evilest, cruelest govts in the world.”