Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly condemned the international community's historic nuclear deal with Iran on Sunday, while Saudi Arabia remained conspicuously quiet, reflecting the jitters felt throughout the Middle East over Iran's acceptance on the global stage.
While most Gulf countries remained silent in the first hours after the deal was reached in Geneva, Netanyahu wasted little time in criticizing it, calling the deal a "historic mistake" and saying he was not bound by the agreement.
Speaking to his cabinet, Netanyahu said the world had become a "more dangerous place" as a result of the deal. He reiterated a long-standing threat to use military action against Iran if needed, declaring that Israel "has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself."
"Today the world became a much more dangerous place," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disagreed with Netanyahu's appraisal, saying that Israel had been made safer by the deal.
"I believe that from this day, for the next six months, Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday because we now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which they (the Iranians) can break out (toward making a nuclear bomb)," he said. “We are going to have insights to their program that we did not have before.”
Sunday's agreement is the first stage of what is hoped to bring about a final deal ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has agreed to curb many of its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual relief from economic sanctions, while diplomats negotiate a more sweeping agreement.
The deal includes freezing Iran's ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will oversee Iran's compliance.
For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran's leaders view the country's ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of nuclear self-sufficiency.
But Israel views any enrichment as unacceptable, saying that turning low-level enriched uranium into weapons grade is relatively simple. It demands that all enrichment be halted and that Iran's ability to produce uranium be rolled back.
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