Bibi’s red line raises more questions than it answers

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toned down his ultimatums to President Barack Obama and focused on Iran, displaying a crude drawing of a bomb to dramatize his concerns about Iran’s growing stockpile of enriched uranium in a speech to the United Nations Thursday.

“So how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb, and how close is Iran to getting it?” Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly Thursday, pulling out a cartoonish drawing of a round bomb with a fuse. “This is a bomb. … In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium.”

Iran is “70 percent of the way there,” the MIT-educated Israeli leader continued. “And by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

Still, that timetable seemed to allow for several more months to pursue international diplomatic efforts to try to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program before Israel would feel compelled to resort to force. And Netanyahu Thursday expressed new confidence that the Israeli and American administrations would be able to reconcile their different timetables on how long there is to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

“Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together,” Netanyahu told the world body.

“The two sides, the Israelis and the Americans, are trying very hard to narrow differences between the two of them,” Patrick Clawson, an Iran analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor. The Israelis “feel comfortable that they are succeeding.”

As to what accounts for Netanyahu having toned down his camp’s recent rhetoric about the urgency of the Iran threat, analysts cited several factors. Key among them, the Israelis reading US polls showing the growing likelihood that Obama will be re-elected to a second term as US president. Continue reading