Obama Won't Trip Over Netanyahu's Iran 'Red Line'

Getty Images

By Reuters

Published March 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

U.S. President Barack Obama visits Israel next week at the onset of spring - the “red line” previously drawn by his host, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to trigger an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.

But an Israeli-Iranian war, Washington’s nightmare as it tries to scale back defence commitments abroad and avoid a draining Gulf oil crisis, does not appear trip-wire imminent.

Officials and analysts say Iran has warded off the Israeli threat by calibrating its mid-level uranium enrichment so that it does not accrue enough fuel for a potential first bomb - the threshold Netanyahu warned about in a United Nations speech in September.

He was presenting a worst-case extrapolation from U.N. nuclear inspector reports. The most recent of those, however, found a slowdown in the stockpiling of the 20 percent fissile uranium that Iran, in the face of mounting Western suspicions, says is part of an entirely peaceful programme.

Netanyahu has not publicly revised the spring-to-summer 2013 dating for his “red line”. But several Israeli officials privately acknowledged it had been deferred, maybe indefinitely.

“The red line was never a deadline,” one told Reuters.

The chief U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, has questioned Israel’s ability to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s distant, defended facilities. Netanyahu, meanwhile, has made little secret of preferring that Washington take the lead in any war.

Yet while mobilising Gulf forces and saying it was open to military force as a last resort, the Obama administration has resisted Israeli calls to present Tehran with a clear ultimatum.

CLOCKS AND KILOS

Interviewed by Israel’s top-rated television news programme on Thursday, Obama voiced cautious hope that negotiations, re-launched last month between the United States, five other world powers and Iran, could still curb its disputed nuclear drive.

“There’s a window - not an infinite period of time - but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically, and that it is in all of our interests,” he told Channel Two TV.

The U.S. “red line” was Iran reaching the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb, Obama said, adding: “That would take over a year or so … But obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.”

Confidence in Obama is not unanimous among Netanyahu’s circle. While one Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said “American presidents don’t bluff” and that therefore Obama should be trusted, another worried U.S. planners might miss an Iranian dash to nuclear arms capability.

A Feb. 21 U.N. report said Iran had 167 kg (367 pounds) of mid-level enriched uranium, in gas form, after converting some of the stockpile to solid reactor fuel. Experts say it would need 240 kg to 250 kg of the gaseous material for a bomb, though the fuel would have to be further enriched to 90 percent purity.

Yet Iran has also been expanding centrifuges at an underground site so that it could rapidly ramp up mid-level enrichment if it wanted to, diplomats say.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.