LISBON, Portugal -- American sanctions and subsequent domestic unrest over the economy are weakening Iran's fundamentalist regime and the world should act to weaken it further, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday as he met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Portuguese capital.
“Iran’s aggression is growing, but its empire is tottering. And I say, let’s make it totter even further,” Netanyahu said as he met with Pompeo, the Israeli media reported.
Speaking alongside Pompeo before their meeting, Netanyahu said their talks would focus heavily on Iran.
"The first subject I will raise is Iran, the second subject is Iran and so is the third," he said.
"Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak," he added. "We are actively engaging in countering that aggression."
The prime minster also praised the tough U.S. sanctions on Iran as he landed in Portugal, saying the financial pressure has sparked protests against the Iranian government across the region, and urged even stronger action against the Tehran government.
The U.S. sanctions are "creating economic problems, creating political problems," Netanyahu said.
While saying that he has given up hope of European countries joining the sanctions, he said there is still a "wide spectrum" of options for ratcheting up the pressure.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy, citing Iran's military entrenchment in neighboring Syria and its support for hostile militant groups across the region. Israel also accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb -- a charge Iran denies.
Netanyahu last year welcomed the U.S. withdrawal from the international nuclear deal with Iran along with subsequent American sanctions. The sanctions, targeting Iran's vital oil sector, have hit the Iranian economy hard.
In recent weeks, Iranian forces have reportedly killed over 200 people in demonstrations against rising fuel prices. Demonstrations have also rocked pro-Iran governments in Lebanon and Iraq, forcing leaders in both countries to resign.
"We're seeing the Iranian empire totter. We see demonstrations in Tehran, demonstrations in Baghdad, demonstrations in Beirut," Netanyahu said earlier.
"It's important to increase this pressure against Iranian aggression," he said.
Iran was expected to dominate Netanyahu's talks with Pompeo, but the prime minister said he would raise other issues as well.
Netanyahu has said the friendly Trump Administration has given Israel a rare window of opportunity to pursue other initiatives.
He is eager for a political boost at a time when he is facing tough legal and political woes at home.
Netanyahu last month was indicted on a series of corruption charges, and the country appears to be barreling toward an unprecedented third election in under 12 months.
Netanyahu's visit with Pompeo was to be their first since the secretary of state announced a new American doctrine last month that does not consider Israeli settlements a violation of international law. It was the latest in a string of diplomatic gifts to Netanyahu by the Trump administration.
Netanyahu said he would discuss his proposal to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic part of the West Bank.
Such a move would draw widespread condemnations from the Palestinians and much of the world and almost certainly extinguish any remaining Palestinian hopes of gaining independence.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, as the heartland of their hoped-for state.
He also said he would discuss a proposed joint defense treaty with the Americans.
Netanyahu and Pompeo may also have been due to discuss an Israeli initiative to formalize already warming ties with Gulf states, who consider Iran a common enemy, by signing non-belligerency agreements.
There has been no indication that the Gulf states would be on board, or even whether it has been formally proposed to them.
There has however been a recent informal thawing of the once absolute embargo on Israel by the Arab world, with Israeli politicians publicly visiting Gulf states.
First published: 20:34, 12.04.19