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Israeli PM Netanyahu: Iranian leaders guided by strong ‘fanaticism’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran’s leaders were guided by “unbelievable fanaticism” and warned American policymakers that containment would not work against a nuclear-armed Tehran.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to air on Sunday, Netanyahu dismissed suggestions that a nuclear Iran would behave as the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

“I think Iran is very different. They put their zealotry above their survival,” said Netanyahu.

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“I wouldn't rely on their rationality,” he continued. “Since the advent of nuclear weapons, you have countries that had access to nuclear weapons who always made a careful calculation of cost and benefit. But Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism.”

“It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today,” Netanyahu added, in reference to the wave of violent protests rocking American embassies in the Muslim world. “You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”

Netanyahu’s interview comes after a tense week between Israel and the United States. 

The prime minister escalated his criticism of the Obama administration’s Iran policy on Tuesday, blasting the White House for declining to clarify the “red line” they would not allow Iran to cross in its nuclear program.

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” he said at a press conference.

That incident was followed by accusations that Obama had snubbed Netanyahu’s requests for a meeting later this month, when he visits the U.S.

The White House denied that Obama had denied a request for a meeting, but he president phoned Netanyahu on Tuesday to soothe tensions and to discuss their approach to Iran, according to a readout of the call.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and many congressional Republicans have charged the administration with being a weak ally to Israel and of not forcefully dissuading Iran from its nuclear program.

The White House, though, says it is committed to allowing sanctions against Tehran to work. 

“We believe that there remains time and space for [sanctions and diplomacy] to bear fruit,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday. 

Netanyahu, though, has remained a vocal public critic of the White House over Iran policy. 

In his interview with NBC, the prime minister said that a nuclear Iran would destabilize the entire region.

“Some have even said that Iran with nuclear weapons would stabilize the Middle East, stabilize the Middle East,” he said. “I think the people who say this have set a new standard for human stupidity.”