The West Must Curb Tehran’s Mideast Ambitions, Says Israeli Ambassador to Italy as Iranian President Lands in Rome
The West must “impose limits and bars” on Iran’s regional ambitions to help stabilize the Middle East, Israel’s ambassador to Italy said, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived for what was being billed as a major business trip in Europe, Italian news service AnsaMed reported on Monday.
Naor Gilon, Israel’s top diplomat in Italy, said Iran’s hand was involved in several major regional political crises, including in Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon, where Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been armed by Tehran with some 100,000 rockets and missiles.
“Israel does not have a border with Iran, but Iranians are on its borders,” said Gilon, referring to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both of which received funding and weapons technology from Iran.
“I hope it doesn’t become a victor’s parade by the king of the world to whom everything is allowed,” said Gilon, referring to Rouhani’s visit, the first by an Iranian president in 16 years. He reminded the paper of Iran’s ongoing human rights abuses, including the hanging of “2,000 people … some of them for political reasons.”
“The rights of women, of gays, of minorities are not respected. Out of 3,000 reformist candidates for the new Parliament of Tehran, only 30, or 1.0%, obtained permission to stand in the election,” he said. Rouhani himself criticized the country’s powerful clerical body, the Guardian Council, for ruling out all but 1% of the reformist candidates in Iran.
The Israeli ambassador also criticized Iran for organizing a “competition to ridicule the Holocaust,” especially around January 27, which is the UN-designated international Holocaust Remembrance Day. He was likely referring to the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest, which was organized by an Iranian newspaper in response to a Danish paper’s Muhammad cartoon contest.
Rouhani will be holding meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella — who has called for a united front against terrorism — and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is also seen as warm to relations with Israel.
Noting that Israel and Italy stood together on fighting terrorism during a speech at the Knesset last summer, Renzi said, according to the Jerusalem Post, “We will not stop fighting, together with [Israel], on the right side, together with the US and the UN and Russia and Arab states like Egypt and Jordan, led by great statesmen who want to bring us to peace and stability.”
Rouhani’s trip in Europe came shortly after the announcement of trade deals with China, valued at about $600 billion, and a few weeks after international sanctions were lifted with the implementation of the nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran. According to the BBC, Rouhani was expected to oversee new contracts with steel company Danieli, and meet with Pope Francis.