Netanyahu calls Rouhani "a clerk" of Iran's ayatollah

(CBS News) Any perceived overtures from Hassan Rouhani about potentially curbing Iran's nuclear program should be approached very cautiously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday on "Face the Nation," calling the Iranian president merely "a servant of the regime; he's a clerk."

"What message of peace?" Netanyahu asked. "Look at the Tweets. [Rouhani is] Tweeting here, but he doesn't allow the Iranian people to Tweet over there in Iran. He's saying all these nice things about Iranian democracy. They are executing people by the hundreds, jailing them by the thousands, any dissident. I mean, that's double talk and sugar talk.

"But the important thing is it's part of a strategy," he said. "The real leader of Iran, who heads this cult that controls Iran, that controls with an iron fist the Iranian people, is the Ayatollah Khamenei. He's the so-called supreme leader, in this case, aptly named. And he wants nuclear weapons."

A phone call last week between Rouhani and President Obama marked the end of a 34-year silence between leaders of the two nations. Mr. Obama subsequently stated his preference for a peaceful resolution, but qualified that he will not take military options off the table in his quest to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu said in terms of "the goal," he and Mr. Obama are very much on the same page. Still, he added, he worries the United States is on its way to being "duped" by a nation that is ravenously eager to ease crippling economic sanctions.

"A nuclear-armed Iran would take the preeminent terrorist regime of our time, one that participates in the mass murder of men, women, and children in Damascus and in the cities of Syria, one that sends terrorists to 25 cities and five continents in the last three years alone, and one that calls for the annihilation of Israel, and one that is developing ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, to reach the United States," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli prime minister said their primary concern is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.

"My goal is to make sure that the Iranians don't dupe us into a deal where we lift the sanctions and they maintain, they retain the ability to continue to develop, at whim, nuclear weapons that will threaten all of us - Israel, the United States, and the peace of the world," Netanyahu said.

Under Rouhani's watch, Netanyahu said, Iran has two paths toward developing a nuclear bomb, which includes the option to enrich "heavy water" - "they want to keep it in exchange for the smiles and double talk they have here." In a book Rouhani wrote when he was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Netanyahu pointed out that Rouhani said that "by creating a calm environment... we were able to complete a crucial part of Iran's nuclear weapons program."

"...He basically does a fool me once, fool me twice thing," Netanyahu continued. "Are we going to be fooled twice?"

Israel is open to "talk," Netanyahu said, but promised not to drop his skepticism until Iran has agreed to a complete dismantling of its nuclear capabilities - "the whole caboodle; the whole thing."

What Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has indicated, Netanyahu charged, "is, 'I'll make some tactical concessions,' give you some nuclear material, but maintain the necessary material of low-enriched uranium by which I can make a bomb and the machines to make it - the centrifuges and the advanced centrifuges and these underground bunkers.' No way. We're not gullible. We're not fools."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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