Both Israel and the US slammed an EU decision Thursday to give Iran $20.7 million in economic aid, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a “poison pill” to the Iranian people and to efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region.
“I think that the decision yesterday by the EU to give €18 million to Iran is a big mistake,” Netanyahu said in Vilnius at a press conference with the leaders of the three Baltic states: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
“Iran tried to conduct a terror attack on the soil of Europe just a few weeks ago while Iran’s foreign minister was meeting with European leaders. That is incredible,” he said.
“Where will the extra money go? It’s not going to go to solve the water problem in Iran. It’s not going to go for Iranian truck drivers. It’s going to go to the missiles and to the revolutionary guards in Iran, in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East,” he added.
The EU money is part of its efforts to support the Iranian nuclear deal, following US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from it in May. The 18 million euros delivery is only the first part of a larger package of 50 million euros earmarked in the EU budget for Iran, which has threatened to restart its nuclear program unless world powers – including the EU, Russia and China – continue to provide it with economic benefits.
Netanyahu said Iran is an issue “not fully understood” in the EU.
“The nuclear deal with Iran threatened Europe as well because it didn’t really stop the race to a nuclear weapon,” he said, adding that it enabled Iran to pursue the enrichment of uranium unlimited within a few years and added billions of dollars to its coffers.
Iran used this money, he said, to oppress its own people and to expand its conquest of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and “many other places.”
The Trump administration also attacked the EU for the move, with US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook saying it “sends the wrong message at the wrong time.” He said the aid from European taxpayers “perpetuates the regime’s ability to neglect the needs of its people and stifles meaningful policy changes.”
“More money in the hands of the ayatollah means more money to conduct assassinations in those very European countries,” Hook said, referring to Iran’s supreme leader. “The Iranian people face very real economic pressures caused by their government’s corruption, mismanagement, and deep investment in terrorism and foreign conflicts.”
The Trump administration has adopted a policy of "maximum economic pressure" on the Iranian government since pulling out of an international nuclear accord with Tehran in May. Sanctions previously lifted by that 2015 agreement have begun springing back into effect, forcing European businesses to choose between engagement in the US and Iranian markets.
The EU has attempted to keep its businesses engaged in Tehran with minimal success.
The US and the EU “should be working together instead to find lasting solutions that truly support Iran’s people and end the regime’s threats to regional and global stability,” Hook added.