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Netanyahu - Churchill or Cassandra?

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu And U.S. President Barack Obama Agree To End Recent Round Of Verbal Sparring Over Iran

Israeli Leader Signals That If U.S. & International Community Do Not Heed His Warnings & Fail To Halt Iran Before Next Spring Or Summer He Will Launch Military Strike

Benyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Was this Prime Minister Netanyahu's last plea to the UN before Israel implements its last resort to prevent Iran from building its first atomic bombs? Barring unforeseen developments, Netanyahu has warned the world that it has until next spring or summer at the most. Israel's leader made his case and now it was now up to the free world's leader the next U.S. President, be it Obama or Mitt Romney. IsraCast Analyst David Essing has the impression that Netanyahu has had his say and will now wait out the winter as the nuclear clock keeps ticking.

 'Israel will attack Iran next spring or summer, if it has not halted its uranium enrichment' - that was the veiled  ultimatum issued by Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The nations of the world now had a choice, either they stop Iran or Israel would. Years of futile diplomacy and the latest sanctions had failed. In fact, the IAEA recently revealed that Iran had actually escalated its uranium enrichment, the key component of a nuclear bomb. Displaying his red-line chart, the Israeli leader illustrated the Iranians have now enriched seventy per cent of the uranium they require for the final stage of producing A-Bombs. If not stopped, by next spring or summer they would have enough for upgrading to weapons grade, the final stage for producing atomic bombs. Within months or several weeks, Iran would produce its first atomic bomb. Israel would not stand by and let this happen.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani, one of its fanatical leaders had brazenly told a student rally in Tehran that one Muslim A-bomb could obliterate the Jewish state. But not only Israel would be in mortal danger; Netanyahu raised the specter of a calamity far greater than 9/11. A nuclear Iran would be tantamount to al Qaeda getting its hands on nuclear weapons: "No one would be safe, not in the Middle East, Europe or America". Although speaking as Israel's prime minister, Netanyahu took on the mantle of an international statesman. The hour was 'late, very late' as he compared the current situation with those dark days when Nazi Germany threatened world peace in the thirties. His conclusion was clear: "Then the world had waited too long to act, we can't let it happen again". 

In appealing to U.S. and world opinion, Netanyahu toned down his recent verbal clashes with President Obama. He  praised Obama's role in enforcing some of the strongest sanctions yet on Iran. However although Iran's oil exports and economy had been hit hard, there was only one way to deter Tehran - to place a clear red line on Iran's nuclear program.  

After expounding on the nature of the threat, the PM then presented his red line to illustrate the urgency. Iran had completed the first stage of its nuclear weapons program and 70% of its second stage of uranium enrichment. Then he drew Israel's red line by next spring or no later than next summer when Iran would complete the second stage of enrichment. It would have enough weapons grade uranium of 93% to start building its first A bomb that might take only months or several weeks. This was not based on secret military intelligence (Israeli) but on the IAEA's latest findings. His unsaid conclusion was clear - Israel would not await for Iran to start assembling nuclear weapons.   

So where should the red line be drawn? The PM said it  should be before Iran reaches the point of sufficient uranium enrichment for the Bomb. Therefore it stands to reason that this would be zero hour for an Israeli strike. And if this should be 'before' Iran reaches the point of sufficient 93% enrichment this could mean before this spring or summer. In fact, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has referred to six months whereas U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke of a year or so, on condition Iran did not have more secret nuclear facilities at work. 

Netanyahu praised Obama for his role in imposing 'some of the strongest sanctions yet' on Iran. And he noted that several days ago the President had reiterrated that it was impossible to contain the threat of a nuclear Iran. He very much appreciated Obama's position. Israelis and Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, shared the same goal of barring Iran from going nuclear. In saying so, Netanyahu refuted the allegations that he had been meddling in the presidential campaign on the side of Mitt Romney. Or that Israel might attack before Nov.6th and thereby force Obama to lend his all-out support in order not to lose votes or suffer the consequences of spiralling gasoline prices. However this was never a feasible option for the simple reason that it would have alienated Obama's Democratic voters , one of Israel's biggest political assests in America.   

The Israeli media have repeatedly reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and other top military and intelligence officials have been opposed to attacking Iran while Netanyahu and Barak have been pressing for a military strike before the U.S. presidential election. Only time will tell the true story of what has transpired during this critical period. What can be assumed is that Netanyahu based his deadline on Israeli intelligence, which is probably as good if not better that the IAEA's. This being the case, if there major differences between Israel's political and military echelons this no longer exists, at least until spring. 

Following his UN address, Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later had a telephone conversation with President Obama. 'Very good'  was how he described these two events. Undoubtedly there was a sigh of relief in the White House that Israel would now give a breathing space and tone down his rhetoric. Back home Netanyahu was viewed as coming through with flying colors - he and his diagram ran on the front pages and TV screens around the world. As never before international attention had focused on the urgency of the Iran threat. Not surprisingly some pundits and political rivals panned what they called his 'red-line gimmick'. In Iran, redicule was poured on Nertanyahu's speech - one commentator quipped: 'Great, Netanyahu has given his approval to keep enriching uranium until the spring!"   

But what happens now? The 'free world' looks to the U.S. which is preoccupied with the presidential election. The White House has repeated that it will not set any red-lines for Iran and if front-runner Obama is re-elected can he expected to keep counting on current sanctions? 

IsraCast Assessment: Our impression is that Netanyahu acted like a prosecutor in the court of international opinion by first indicting Iran as a state terrorist on the world stage. It is already and has been a clear and present danger since the rise of the Ayatollahs in 1979. Israel will not acquiesce in this genocidal regime from acquiring nuclear weapons to fulfil its goal of wiping Israel off the map and will act militarily to do so, even if it means running afoul of the U.S. On the other hand, Netanyahu was ready to go the extra mile by giving America and its allies until just before Iran acquires an enraged uranium capability that will enable able it to make a dash for the Bomb. It may have been his last plea for international action before Israel executes its last resort.

Will his repeated warnings about Iran fall on deaf ears in the General Assembly as did Cassandra's about the danger of the Trojan horse? If they have, Netanyahu will have to rise to being an Israeli Winston Churchill in rallying the Jewish state to one of its greatest challenges in the modern era.     

P.S. There is one puzzling aspect of Netanyahu's presentation. The Israeli position as articulated by Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been that Israel would strike before losing its capability to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities built deep underground. This argument was absent from Netanyahu's address. Did this mean that Israel was no longer concerned about this possibility? 

David Essing

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