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Israel’s Netanyahu attacks ‘dangerous Iranian tiger’

Netanyahu brandishes Iranian drone fragmentImage copyright

Image caption

Mr Netanyahu brandished a fragment of an Iranian drone shot down over Israel

Israel’s prime minister has launched a stinging attack on Iran, telling a security conference in Munich it is the “greatest threat to our world”.

Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would “not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck”.

Mr Netanyahu drew a parallel between the 1938 Munich Agreement, seen as a failed attempt to appease Nazi Germany, and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

He said the deal had only “unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger”.

Mr Netanyahu accused Iran’s foreign minister and representative in Munich, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is due to address delegates later on Sunday, of being the “smooth-talking mouthpiece of Iran’s regime… [who] lies with eloquence”.

He said Iran was falsely denying that it sent a drone into Israeli territory last week which was shot down by Israeli forces.

Holding up a remnant of what he said was the destroyed drone, he addressed Mr Zarif directly: “Do you recognise it? You should, it’s yours. Don’t test us.”

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BBC World affairs correspondent Jonathan Marcus, at the conference, says this theatricality was vintage Benjamin Netanyahu, from a prime minister embattled at home with potential corruption charges looming over his head.

Why the recent spike in tensions?

The immediate trigger is last week’s confrontation – the first known direct engagement between the Israeli and Iranian militaries.

Israel launched raids against Iranian targets in Syria after saying it had intercepted an Iranian drone crossing the Syria-Israel border.

During the offensive, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down by Syrian air defences, its pilots ejecting in northern Israel.

It was believed to be the first time Israel had lost a jet in combat since 2006.

After the attack, Mr Netanyahu said Iran had “brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty” and vowed that Israel would defend itself.

What about in the longer term?

The rivalry between Iran and Israel has been exacerbated in recent years by the regional instability – from the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which removed a counterweight to Iranian regional power, to the ongoing proxy war being fought between many different powers in Syria.

Israel is a vocal opponent of the 2015 deal struck between Iran and six world powers which lifted crippling sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mr Netanyahu will be followed on to the stage in Munich by Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif and it is a moot point who will be the more welcome guest, says the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus.

While there is strong support in Europe for the nuclear deal with Iran, there is a growing sense in several capitals that more must be done to curb Iran’s destabilising regional role.

It has emerged as one of the great victors from the chaos in Syria.

How will the speech be seen from Israel?

The Israeli prime minister was speaking with the huge shadow of potential corruption charges hanging over his head.

He is likely to direct his Munich appearance as much at his domestic audience as to the wider international community, our correspondent says, insisting that he remains the essential leader for Israel at a time of growing regional competition.

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