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Middle East

Netanyahu warns U.S. not to work with Iran on Iraq

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday warned close ally the United States against working with arch-foe Iran in the effort to pull Iraq back from the brink. Israel has consistently voiced fears that a swift jihadist offensive led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) that has swept up swaths of Iraq may prompt concessions to Tehran from Washington.

The U.S. and Iran now find themselves sharing a common interest in helping Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fend off the onslaught, and the two sides held rare, brief talks last week in Vienna on the sidelines of international consultations on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“What you’re seeing in the Middle East today in Iraq and in Syria is the stark hatred between radical Shiites – in this case led by Iran – and radical Sunnis led by Al-Qaeda and ISIS and others,” Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Now both of these camps are enemies of the United States, and when your enemies are fighting each other, don’t strengthen either one – weaken both,” Netanyahu said.

“I think by far the worst outcome that could come out of this is that one of these factions, Iran, would come out with nuclear weapon capability. That would be a tragic mistake – it would make everything else pale in comparison.”

Netanyahu added: “There are two actions you have to take: one is to take the actions that you deem necessary to counter this ISIS takeover of Iraq, and the second is not to allow Iran to dominate Iraq the way it dominated Lebanon and Syria.

“You actually have to work on both sides – as I say, you try to weaken both.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 23, 2014, on page 9.
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