Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Netanyahu draws 'red line' for Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu shows an illustration as he describes his concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions (AP/Seth Wenig)

Israel's prime minister has warned world leaders that they had until next summer at the latest to stop Iran building a nuclear bomb.

In his most detailed plea yet for action against Iran's nuclear programme, Benjamin Netanyahu produced a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, saying Iran had already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.

Then he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate - the completion of the second stage and 90% of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.

"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," he said. "From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."

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.

On Thursday he presented his case to the world saying a nuclear-armed Iran would be a danger to many other countries as well. Casting the battle as one between modernity and the "medieval forces of radical Islam", Mr Netanyahu said deterrence would not work against Iran as it had with the Soviet Union. "Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose survival," he said. But "militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them".

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly argued that time is running out to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power and that 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 programme continues it may soon stage a unilateral military strike.

This week Iranian leaders suggested they may strike Israeli pre-emptively if they felt threatened, stoking fears of a regional war.

US president Barack Obama has vowed to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power but has rejected Mr Netanyahu's demands for setting an ultimatum past which the US would attack. His administration has urgently sought to hold off Israeli military action, which would probably result in the US being pulled into a conflict and cause region-wide mayhem on the eve of American elections.

Iran's deputy UN ambassador later took the floor at the General Assembly, categorically rejecting Israel's "entirely baseless allegations" and insisting that the country's nuclear programme was purely peaceful. Eshagh Al Habib accused Mr Netanyahu of using "an unfounded and imaginary graph" to justify a military threat against Iran.

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