If Only Iran Nuclear Red Lines Were as Simple as Hockey for Israel

Should Benjamin Netanyahu Take Action on Nukes?

Caught Off-Sides? When the St. Louis Blues took to the ice against the Los Angeles Kings, it was easy to see the ‘red lines’ and what happens if you cross them. Not so with Iran and its nuclear program.
getty images
Caught Off-Sides? When the St. Louis Blues took to the ice against the Los Angeles Kings, it was easy to see the ‘red lines’ and what happens if you cross them. Not so with Iran and its nuclear program.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 05, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Obama tried to explain the complexities to reporters April 30, concluding, “I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts.” Translation: I know I laid down a red line, but I’m not sure where it is.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew an even starker line last September 27, a month after Obama’s ultimatum. Now he’s in an even bigger pickle. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, he waved a cartoon bomb bisected by a fat red line. This, he said, was the threshold where Iran enriches enough uranium for a bomb — 250 kilograms, purified to a consistency of 20% fissionable U-235 isotope. That can be refined in just six months or so to 25 kilograms at bomb-grade 90% purity, enough for one bomb.

If the mullahs can’t be convinced to stop short of that red line, 250 kilos of 20% fissile, they’ll have to be stopped by force.

Some leading experts believe Iran has already crossed the red line — or, more precisely, sidestepped it. In February the International Atomic Energy Agency said the regime had produced 170 kilos of the threshold 20% material. Tel Aviv University’s authoritative Institute of National Security Studies said in an April 23 study that Tehran is deliberately staying below the 250-kilo threshold. Instead it’s adding new centrifuges, increasing its enrichment capacity.

Now it can keep its stockpile at lower grade, to avoid trouble. If it decides it’s safe to proceed, it can reach the 90% finish line in the same quick sprint that Netanyahu’s 250-kilo red line was meant to cordon off.

As the institute director, Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief, explained in an April 23 speech, Iran can remain just shy of Netanyahu’s red line indefinitely, watching and waiting, steadily shortening its breakout time by adding centrifuges and bulking its low-grade supply.

This puts Netanyahu in a tight spot. By his own logic, he should be attacking Iran’s centrifuges already. His defense chiefs say he has the means. But they also say it’s a bad idea.


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!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • 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.