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.
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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.
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He’s just been visited in a single month by a parade of America’s highest officials, the president, secretary of state and secretary of defense. They didn’t come to tour Yad Vashem. According to senior Israeli defense insiders, the Americans came to deliver the message that Israel mustn’t attack on its own. America is in a better position to do the job. And it will, if and when it concludes Iran has entered the final sprint. Until then, Netanyahu must trust Obama.

Can he trust Obama? The president drew a red line on Syria’s chemical weapons, but didn’t act. Is that an indicator of what he’ll do on Iran?

Addressing a Likud meeting on April 29, Netanyahu decided to punt. Iran, he said, “has yet to cross the red line I presented at the United Nations, but it is approaching it systematically. It must not be allowed to cross it.” Translation: If they’re sidestepping my red line, I’m off the hook.

Yadlin, addressing a conference on Israeli security April 28 in New York, argued that the whole idea of red lines is “problematic.” Red lines are a virtual invitation to an enemy to evade, sidestep and circumvent. He urged a strategy of maintaining the broadest international pressure, keeping Tehran off balance so it continues to believe the price of building a bomb is too high.

Echoing a string of senior security professionals who’ve discussed the issue, Yadlin said Israel “needs the international community” to maintain the pressure. And should an attack become necessary — the fallout, while severe, would be “less than the consequences of a nuclear Iran” — the international community will need to help keep Iran from rebuilding its nukes.

“We have to pay attention that we are not paying both prices — that you bomb Iran and you still get a nuclear Iran.”

What’s to be done? Montreal hockey legend Yvan Cournoyer, who won more Stanley Cup championships than almost any player in history (only his teammate Henri Richard surpassed him), was once asked what the secret was to winning games.

“Well,” he said, after thinking hard, “you’ve got to shoot that puck.”

If only Middle East politics were that straightforward.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


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