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Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran’s Destabilizing Activities in Middle East

A combo photo of U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have discussed over the phone “Iran’s destabilizing activities” in the West-Asia region, said a White House statement on April 9.

This was their second telephone conversation within the past three weeks. They discussed “threats and challenges facing the Middle East” on Sunday, while their previous conversation, according to the White House, was about “cooperation on countering the implications of Iran’s destabilizing activities” in the region.

In the early April conversation, the Israeli Prime minister had expressed concern about the influence of Iran as “Israel’s sworn enemy” in Syria in case US leaves Syria, AP had reported.

Israel has repeatedly warned against Iran’s increasing presence in Syria while stressing that it is adamant to stop Iran’s permanent presence in Syria.

Trump and Netanyahu talked on Sunday while US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo was visiting Israel, holding talks mainly about Iran, the JCPOA and Tehran’s regional ambitions.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” Pompeo said after a nearly two-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The United States is with Israel in this fight,” The Washington Post quoted Pompeo as saying.

While President Trump is to decide by May 12 whether to keep the U.S. in the nuclear deal, Pompeo repeated the Trump position that “if we can’t fix it, he is going to withdraw,” The Washington Post quoted Pompeo as saying after the meeting with Israel’s prime minister on Sunday.

On the same day, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron for over an hour, Iranian press reported, quoting Rouhani as having said during the conversation that “JCPOA cannot be re-negotiated,” and that “the Islamic Republic will not accept anything beyond its current commitments.”

President Trump would continue to abide by the JCPOA terms only if Iran allows immediate access by international inspectors to all its places and establishments, accepts permanent limitations on its nuclear program, guarantees not to pursue a military nuclear program, and limits its ballistic missile programs.

The French president who recently met with president Trump has suggested that talks with Iran should continue about Tehran’s ballistic missiles, nuclear activity beyond 2025, and the main regional crises.

In the meantime, reports from Syria say there has been a new round of missile strikes on Iranian bases in Syria. The strikes were reportedly similar to Israel’s previous attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

In late April senior Iranian and Israeli officials exchanged threats about “reacting” to events and “punishing” the other side.

Iran’s national security chief Ali Shamkhani has warned that “Israel will have to pay for its ignorance as the time for hit and run has come to an end.”

"Israel doesn't want war ... but if Iran attacks Tel Aviv, we will hit Tehran," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Arabic-language, Saudi-owned Elaph news website, which is based in London, reported Haaretz on April 30.