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September 29, 2012

Benjamin Netanyahu Draws a Red Line at the United Nations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu gave a powerful speech before the United Nations yesterday, one that should, but probably won't be, heeded by most nations of the world.

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"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war."

Exactly right. And, as the Prime Minister went on to say, we must draw a clear red line with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.

Here is the section of the speech where he draws the red line on the bomb diagram.

Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.

President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.

In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.

In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.

Clear red lines have also worked with Iran.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.

Quite correct. The "strategic ambiguity" favored by some only encourages troublemakers to continually test the limits, to push the more peaceful nations farther and farther. And in when they do so they usually go too far and war is the result. So how does this apply to the current situation with Iran?

...in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

So, how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it? Let me show you. I brought a diagram for you. Here's the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse

In the case of Iran's nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages.

The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium.

The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium.

And the third stage and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Where's Iran? Iran's completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they're 70% of the way there.

Now they are well into the second stage. 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. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I told you now is not based on secret information. It's not based on military intelligence. It's based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They're online.

So if these are the facts, and they are, where should the red line be drawn?

The red line should be drawn right here.

Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. Each day, that point is getting closer.

That's why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that's why everyone should have a sense of urgency.

Here is the entire speech

Where is the United States?

Two weeks ago Charles Krauthammer explained, as best anyone can, the position of the Obama Administration:


There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn't matter, we can deter them, or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.

In my view, the first position -- that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union -- is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it's internally coherent.

What is incoherent is President Obama's position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable -- "I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" -- yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.

A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, "the same conditions that helped trigger World War II -- years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real."

This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president's rebuff of the Israeli prime minister's request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.

The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:

1) Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.

This week, the IAEA reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran's refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what's gone on there.

The administration's ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They're a means, not an end. And they've had no effect on the nuclear program.

2) Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich -- shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.

Iran's response? Contemptuous rejection.

Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.

3) Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement -- against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended -- after the administration implored him not to.

Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran's alleged isolation.

The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran's nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, "for Iran to live up to its international obligations."

Seen in this light, it seems clear that Netanyahu's speech was an attempt to reverse the current policy of the Obama Administration, which as Krauthammer explained is to talk loud but carry a small stick.

As Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark (supposedly) said, "diplomacy without credible threat of force is like music without instruments."

Will the United States get with the program and draw a clear red line that the Iranians can clearly understand? If so, will our threat of force be credible? If not, will Israel feel compelled to attack Iran on it's own, and, if so, will the United States support her or complain and stand on the sidelines?

I don't know the answer to any of these for certain, but here is what I do know:


  1. Iranian is getting closer every day to getting the bomb
  2. Sanctions and diplomacy are not working
  3. The Iranian regime with the bomb is totally unacceptable
  4. Israeli military action alone cannot do the job
  5. Short of war, only a clear red line and credible use of force stands a chance of working
  6. A war would be extremely messy, but much better than a nuclear Iran
  7. The Obama Administration is not at all inclined to draw a red line
  8. Obama has not made a credible threat of force against Iran
  9. The way things are going now, Israel will attack Iran on her own, Iran will retaliate by trying to bloc the Strait of Hormuz, and we will become involved whether we like it or not

Iran is not Libya, and everyone knows it, so Obama's actions in that latter country don't scare anyone. I hope that our president wakes up before it's too late, but the similarities to our current situation and 1938 in Europe are too strong to be ignored. The clock is ticking, and we draw ever closer to midnight in the Middle East.

Update

Incredibly, our own ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, skipped Netanyahu's speech. Her excuse is so lame I have to think it was intentional.

Posted by Tom at September 29, 2012 3:00 PM

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