Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the U.S. on Sunday not to ease economic sanctions on Iran without ensuring the end of Iran's nuclear program, saying that Iran is "trying to get a partial deal that they know could end up dissolving the sanctions regime and would keep them with the nuclear weapons capability."
Appearing remotely on NBC's "Meet the Press," Netanyahu addressed Iran president Hassan Rouhani's "charm offensive" and reports that the U.S. government is considering rolling back some of the economic sanctions it has imposed on Iran by cautioning against "halfway measures."
"I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran until it actually stops the nuclear program, that is, dismantles it," said Netanyahu. "I think that any partial deal could end up in dissolving the sanctions" without taking away Iran's nuclear weapons capability.
Before Netanyahu appeared on the program, NBC's David Gregory asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about a new york times report that the administration was considering unfreezing some of Iran's funds if the regime took steps to draw down its nuclear program.
Lew said that "it's premature to be talking about the easing" of sanctions, and that there would be no changes until "the administration sees that Iran is "taking the steps to move away from having nuclear weapons capacity, we need to see real, tangible evidence of it."
But Netanyahu dismissed the possibility of a gradual reduction of measures against Iran, stating that the only true "test" of whether it's time to ease sanctions on Iran is the "full dismantling of Iran's military nuclear program."
"If that is achieved," said Netanyahu, "that would be very good. If it's achieved peacefully, it's even better." The situation he said he wants to avoid is one similar to what happened with North Korea in 2005, when a deal to ease sanctions did not ultimately prevent the North Korean regime from developing a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu also warned of Iran's influence in the ongoing civil war in Syria, asking Gregory to "understand that Syria is Iran and Iran is Syria as things have developed now."
Israel's interest, Netanyahu said, in the war in neighboring Syria is to "end it in the best way, that we don't have either an Iranian protectorate or a jihadist regime a la Afghanistan in Syria."