(But Obama Refers to Israel Concern Over Iran as ‘Noise’)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the only way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons was by setting “a clear red line” to stop its atomic program.
“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs and that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the UN General Assembly. “Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.”
Netanyahu said Iran had completed the first stage of uranium enrichment, saying “they are 70% of the way there.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly argued that time is running out to stop the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear power and the threat of force must be seriously considered.
Israeli leaders have issued a series of warnings in recent weeks suggesting that if Iran’s uranium enrichment program continues it may soon stage a unilateral military strike, flouting even American wishes.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel’s destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.
“Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.
His demand that President Barack Obama declare “red lines” that would trigger an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has been rejected in Washington and sparked a public rift between the two leaders.
The Obama administration has urgently sought to hold off Israeli military action, which would likely result in the U.S. being pulled into a conflict and cause region-wide mayhem on the eve of American elections.
“Israel and the U.S. have a common goal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The prime minister’s remarks drawing a red line will help that this is attained,” a senior official said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said this is not the first time that there have been disagreements between the positions of Israel and the United States and that this will not “in any way harm the strong friendship between the two countries.”
Netanyahu claims international diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions have failed to deter Iran, but a new report from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, leaked Thursday, concludes that sanctions are at least hitting Iran hard economically. According to the report, details of which appeared in the Haaretz newspaper, Iran’s oil exports declined by over 50% in the past year and sanctions on Iran’s central bank have made it difficult for the regime to access its foreign currency.
An Israeli official confirmed the new report but refused to elaborate on it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal government documents.