Apocalyptic Talk Aside, Israel Has Dialed Down Its Threat to Bomb Iran — for Now

Netanyahu says at present rates of enrichment, Iran's nuclear program will cross Israel's red line for military action next spring or summer

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, points to a red line he drew on a graphic of a bomb while addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27, 2012 in New York City

Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his U.N. speech on Sept. 27, referring to the question of Iran’s nuclear program, to which he devoted almost all of his remarks. The Prime Minister broke from his recent habit of tacitly, but obviously, criticizing President Barack Obama‘s handling of Iran by hailing his achievements in putting together the most comprehensive sanctions package ever faced by any nation. Netanyahu also emphasized that the two governments are working together in pursuit of the common objective of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, a message the White House was happy to affirm via National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, who said the U.S. and Israel “will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that [shared] goal.”

Although Netanyahu also maintained that sanctions have failed to stop Iran’s program and that time was running out, the Israeli leader has clearly dialed things down from his previous habit of presenting Obama — to the delight of the campaign of Mitt Romney — as naive and feckless in the face of a grave and gathering danger. Netanyahu may have, at one point, hoped to pressure Obama into taking a tougher stand, but the White House resisted Israeli demands that it more clearly draw “red lines” on Iran. Netanyahu found himself increasingly isolated at home in his threat to take unilateral military action and was sharply criticized even by Israeli President Shimon Peres for appearing to interfere in U.S. electoral politics. Other Israeli commentators were blunter, warning that Netanyahu was recklessly gambling on a Romney victory, which appeared, they said, increasingly unlikely.

(MORE: At the U.N., Netanyahu Sides with Obama on Iran)

The Israeli leader’s General Assembly speech was an odd mixture, not only because of the bizarre, cartoonish bomb graphic he used to depict Iran’s nuclear progress, which left confusion as to just where, in real terms, he was drawing his own red line. The need to set red lines that would trigger a military response if crossed was the main focus of his speech, just as it had been the focus of his campaign to pressure the Obama Administration in recent months. Sanctions have damaged Iran’s economy, he noted, but haven’t stopped its nuclear program. He repeated familiar rhetoric at the U.N., portraying Iran’s leadership as an apocalyptic, suicidal cult akin to al-Qaeda that welcomed death and its own destruction in order to usher in a messianic era. His point, of course, was that Iran could not be contained by the self-preservation logic that governed the behavior of Cold War–era Marxist regimes. (He even thanked Obama for rejecting “containment” in his Sept. 25 U.N. speech, pocketing what was essentially a concession to the Israeli view and making it clear that he intends to hold the Obama Administration to it.) But those alarmist portrayals of Iran are largely intended for a U.S. political audience because they’re not taken any more seriously by the international community than are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s portrayals of Israel and the U.S. And Israel’s own, officially unacknowledged nuclear-weapons capability, generally believed to be substantial, has not escaped the notice of the rest of the world. Comparing a threat from Iran today to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s rings a little hollow when considering Israel’s overwhelming military superiority in the region; even the airpower of the Gulf monarchies would easily overwhelm Iran’s archaic air force.

Netanyahu, in fact, inadvertently presented something of a conceptual contradiction on how to deal with Iran. After providing a history of how setting firm red lines had ostensibly deterred the Soviets, and even claiming that a U.S. statement of a red line had persuaded Iran to retreat from threats to closing the straight of Hormuz earlier this year, Netanyahu insisted that Iran would back down from uranium enrichment if “faced with a clear red line,” thereby “giving more time for sanctions and diplomacy to persuade it to dismantle its nuclear program.” But to argue that Iran would back down if faced with a credible military threat requires believing that the decisionmakers in Tehran are, in fact, rational actors who prioritize self-preservation — the very assumption that underpins a containment principle. After all, suicidal, apocalyptic jihadists are hardly going to be deterred from pursuing their goals by red-line threats.

(MORE: How Netanyahu Learned to Trust Obama)

As to where the red line would be set, there was further confusion resulting from his Wile E. Coyote–style bomb graphic that some read as implying that enrichment above 90% ought to be a red line. The graphic may have been intended to suggest that a stockpile of enough 20%-enriched uranium that could be reprocessed into weapons-grade material would, in fact, take Iran 90% of the distance to achieving a bomb. The Obama Administration, which has set its own red line at Iran’s “obtaining” a nuclear weapon, is unlikely to concur that a stockpile of medium-enriched uranium sufficient for reprocessing into a single bomb’s material constitutes obtaining a nuclear weapon. But even if they don’t agree on where to draw the line, the takeaway from Netanyahu’s speech was his warning that at present rates of enrichment, “Iran’s ability to make a bomb would be irreversible by next spring or summer.” Translation: Israel is not going to bomb Iran before the November U.S. election, but it will start the familiar saber-rattling cycle again soon after the results are announced.

Obama has successfully warded off Israeli pressure to set a red line, of course, but a diplomatic breakthrough remains elusive. After the election, he, or a President Romney, will have to consider whether to escalate the pressure or try a new, more direct diplomatic tack with Iran. And there’s no doubt which option the Israelis will be lobbying for.

MORE: Red Lines, Deadlines and End Games: Netanyahu Turns Up Iran Heat on Obama

96 comments
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ahorvath
ahorvath

That is because the time for an Israeli conventional airstrike against Iran passed 2-3 years ago.  The Iranian nuclear program is too far advanced, too well dispersed, too well hidden and too well defended to be destoyed by a simple airstrike today.  It will require a massive air campaign of thousands or air sorties.  Israel has the will to attack iran but does not have the weapons.  Israel does not have the number of planes, the right kind of planes, the number of pilots, the air refueling tankers and the bunker buster bombs to conduct such a massive, extended air campaign.  First, they would have to take out Iranian radars, anti aircraft missile sites, the Iranian air force, command amp; control and only then they could start going after the nuclear sites.  They would also have to redirect some of their rescources for the couterattack byHammas and Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Palestenian areas.  The Obama administration on the other hand has the weapons but does not have the will for a military confrontation with Iran.  Israel knows that and Iran knows that.  Iran will get the bomb in about 5-7 months and will have 5-10 nuclear devices in about 18-24 months.  Look for a nuclear confrontation in the the area in about 24-36 months.

Cathy Palmer
Cathy Palmer

I thought he was giving a red line much sooner.  The Prime Minister must be

waiting to see which American president he will have to work with first.

Jonh MacMillan
Jonh MacMillan

I think Mr. Nut-a-Yahoo-t was correct and very eloquent--given the intended audience. It wasn't Mr. O' or members of the UN his intended audience. The intended audience was the every-day-increasing members of U.S.A. Congress that are abandoning the Pro-Israel camp. Now, the question is: Did they get the message or they need another drawing? 

Cesar Laurence P. Alvaran
Cesar Laurence P. Alvaran

(CRIED A LOT FOR OUR JEWISH SURVIVAL) IRAN'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS LOOK LIKE TO FINISH TODAY'S HITLER AGAIN STRIKE JEWS THAT WILL CAUSE WORLD WAR. IRAN IS STUBBORN THEY PUSH WAR PROBLEMS. THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL WILL NOT BLOW TODAY, BUT FOR SURE THEY WILL BLAST OUT...BUT WE JEWS ALREADY LEAVES THE NATION...WE GOING AGAIN TO BE SCATTERED FOR THE GOSPEL, THEM RAPTURE WILL COME ITS IN THE BIBLE IT TELLS THE STORY. IF YOU KILL US JEWS STILL WE LIVED. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS ISRAEL IS JUST ONE BOMB COUNTRY NETANYAHU IS MAKING A WAY FOR OUR "JEWISH SURVIVAL"

1dodnov90
1dodnov90

Bomb's drawing ? Seems like someone is trying to challenge my country's former prime minster Silvio Berlusconi on "who is the most ridiculous prime minister ever ?"

tonyhaddad2
tonyhaddad2

My dear sweet gentle Melanie the patriotic American . . ..  Perhaps a cement burka would look lovely on you.

Mu Çe
Mu Çe

Lets see how israel attacks Iran without the help of USA. I can see how desperately cold-blooded net-and-yuhhi acts with a laughable cartoon picture in his guilty hands, begging for help like a child!

daddydelight
daddydelight

NUT-N-YAHOO-T  YOU CAN SEE THE EVIL IN HIS EYES.  GO FIGHT YOUR OWN WARS

JEW'S ( RELIGION NOT ETHNICITY ) ARROGANCE AND THEIR  SELF CENTERED EGO....  " THE CHOSEN ONES" .... THEIR GOD'S  DEATH SENTENCE ..... FIRST IT WAS  AN EGOTISTICAL  MANIC  HITLER THAT BUILT OVENS TO CONFRONT THIS RELIGION  NOW WE HAVE ANOTHER MANIAC THAT WANTS THE EVIL OF ALL EVIL WEPONS  TO ALSO CONFRONT THEIR STUPIDITY.  AFTER THE UNITED NATIONS "CREATED" THE  STATE OF ISREAL ( JEWS VATICAN CITY ) A GIFT TO RIGHT THE WRONGS OF THE HOLOCAUST , INSTEAD OF BEING HUMPLE AND GRATEFUL OR EVEN THANKING  THERE NEIGHBORS FOR LAND THAT WAS SEIZED FROM PALESTINE AND GIVEN TO THEM.  THAT WAS NOT GOOD ENOUGH AND SLAPPED ALL INVOLVED IN THE FACE AND STARTED TO SEIZE MORE LAND BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAID THEY WERE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE AND IT WAS THERE LAND. I HAVE NEVER MEET MORE STUPID PEOPLE THAN THE JEWS .  ANY WHERE THIS RELIGIN GOES THERE  IS NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. 

Colin Sydney
Colin Sydney

The UN is suppose to be forum for substantial talks that prevent war and yet we here leaders of 3 disgraced war mongering countries bicker and eventually leading the world to another ill fated war. the UN as a war deterring institution has failed miserably  The Failure of the UN http://wp.me/p2JYCO-1d 

SR71_Blackbird
SR71_Blackbird

Bibi has got to go. His belligerence is hurting Israel's credibility in the US and among the world community. His may be the first govt. to fall after November elections, followed by Cameron and gang in the UK. Time for someone like Tzipi Livni to calm the nerves of the people of Israel, and get away from the war mongering crowd. I think Israel is tired of Bibi and his gimmicks. Buy him an iPad, someone...at least powerpoint charts and animations will make his comic appearances on the world stage look less anachronistic. Same goes for Amadinejad, the time for belligerent behavior is over, please, please, we live in the 21st century, we have plenty other problems to cope with !

robthom
robthom

Encouragingly,

the general civilian public (outside of new york) seem to be less susceptible to Israels Wiley Coyote scare tactics these days.

But unfortunately,

both branches of the murikan political regime are still deeply controlled by the Israel lobbyists and weapon industry war mongers.

No matter what the general public wants.

The media can always change their mind to fit the situation later.

Varoujan Tourian
Varoujan Tourian

America sacrificed enough for BARBARIC Israel in Gentile deaths and a wrecked economy. If Israel attacks Iran, let it bear the full responsibility and stop all US AID and armaments to it! Stop financing the Jew-controlled Imperial Military of our for-sale governments that denies US Gentiles, among hundreds of other services, Universal Health-Dental-Optical-Drugs-ancillaries so it can develop ever more deadly weaponry to subjugate all other peaceful humans to the will of the CHOSEN Jews and kill another 2 million Arabs, M.E. Christians and Moslems just in Iraq and Afghanistan. US tail maintains that MASTER, BARBARIC Israel mUSt maintain its hegemony over Arabs even through their traitorous kings who were installed by Imperial US-U.K!! Enough! In all of book 19 of Deuteronomy, a racist ‘God’ calls Jews CHOSEN (in 200+ Biblical passages), gives them the heavily populated ‘land of Milk and Honey’ of ancient Semitic Palestinians and Arabs and sanctions the killing of ALL the peoples Israelites conquered (or has available Ester or Naomi put out amp; then murder the ‘enemy leader’ in his sleep), including Arabs, Palestinians, Samaritans, Sumerians, Kaldians, etc! This comes after 10 centuries of re-writing of the Bible to sanitize the image of a vindictive, psychopathic God who is childishly obsessed with forcing ‘His creation’ to ‘worship’ Him rather than asking mankind to be equanimous and recognize the equal rights of others! This Gargantuan lie was orchestrated by the Jew-run US Imperial Military, because ALL US Presidents (and 90% Jew Congress) since Jew FDR’s time (incldng half-Jew W. Churchill) were Jews or converts from Judaism, married to Jewesses or have Jew blood in them incldng Mr Obama! If you want peace, negate CHOSEN Israel and recognize the equal rights of Israel’s victims!

Varoujan Tourian
Varoujan Tourian

Now that the Jew-run administration of Jews Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bolton-Murdock-12 tribes is gone after SADDLING GENTILE Americans (Jew for ALL Leprous others) after 35K dead, 700K Crippled, $trillion cost, loss of fear of the Jew-Run Imperial Military, and a destroyed economy, SLAVE US  cannot any longer bear the cost of maitaining the HEGEMONY of CHOSEN Genocide-Commiting Irael. MrObama is still avoiduing telling the Zionists to go fly a kite and get lost! 

Liberal49
Liberal49

Netanyahu amp; Obama are the biggest terrorist in the World.

Israel is nothing more than an illegal child of USA.

Liberal49
Liberal49

Netanyahu amp; Obama... both are the biggest terrorist of the World.

Israel is nothing more but an illegal child of USA

melanie77
melanie77

OBAMA RISKED HIS REELECTION BY FIGHTING BACK AGAINST JEWISH DONOR THREATS AND AIPAC TO PROTECT AMERICAN LIVES FROM BEING SACRIFICED AGAIN IN ANOTHER WAR FOR ISRAEL,

Ahra Ah
Ahra Ah

in order to keep israel´s ailing economy this evil man needs to lube up israeli´s military industrial complex and the only way to do it is to start a war of course with the forced help of usa ! and of course the shame will be forever with those who cause another genocide like iraq and afghanistan! 

americans must wake up and demand an immediate  stop t o these foolish and murderous act by pressing their law makers !

HighEarl
HighEarl

Let Israel fight it's own fight - America has bankrupted itself already for the ungrateful Israeli's and we did so based on NutterYahoo's screaming about the WMDs Iraq had.

Israel is the nuclear terror threat, no other nation is. Unless you like governments such as the former South African apartheid government getting nukes, then Israel is your man.

melanie77
melanie77

BAN AIPAC AND JEWISH DONORS,CUT THE HEAD OFF THE SNAKE THAT HOLDS OUR GOVERNMENT HOSTAGE TO ISRAEL

SEG65
SEG65

Do y like Iran ? Move over.

SEG65
SEG65

Netanyahu. Keep on with your job opening western's eyes before jihad will cut their throats...

SEG65
SEG65

Netanyahu's speech was not intended to anyone. He was just trying to open the eyes of people like y, that equals US and Israel to a crazy bunchs of religious zealots that are already burning the western civilization.

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

As so many of the wise commentators here claim, Netanyahu is a complete idiot. Except that:

1.      He managed to significantly strengthen the Israeli economy in the last 3 years, while the US, EC went south.

2.      He managed to prevent war while every country in the ME drowned in a blood socked civil war.

3.      He managed to deter terror acts inside Israel without applying extreme military force in retaliation.

4.      He managed to calm internal social unrest without giving in to irresponsible budgetary demands.

5.      He managed to saw confusion and internal friction within his (internal) political opposition, coming out the winner from countless confrontations.

6.      He managed to make every journalist in Israel - and in every “liberal” media outlet worldwide - his sworn enemy. For an Israeli PM, there is no better indication for a job well done.     

melanie77
melanie77

NETANYAHOO IS HUMAN GARBAGE AS ARE ALL SCHEMING ISRAELI FILTH

Mu Çe
Mu Çe

7- He continues waging war against innocent people in Gazza.

8- He keeps on the cruel strategy that is based on conflict and savagery in the region

9-He has nothing about peace and enthusiam inside his heart but threat like a child

10-and bla bla...

Raimo Kangasniemi
Raimo Kangasniemi

It looks like it's just a funny man with a childish graphic in that picture, but don't be fooled - under that bumbling appearance is a cold-blooded killer responsible for war crimes and human rights violations.

Boon Tee Tan
Boon Tee Tan

By displaying the bomb image and drawing the red line at his UN speech, the Israeli premier must be real desperate. But without the clear cut support from the White House (though Pentagon seems equally keen), he could not make any move. He knows too well the awful eventuality will be too much for him to shoulder alone. He has to wait till post US presidential election.   (vzc1943, mtd1943)

Reuben_NYC
Reuben_NYC

The cowardly Israelis and zionists coming here to try to scare Americans is hilarious. The theatrics they pull in order to try and get Americans to do their dirty work is laughable if it wasnt so pitiful.  One idiot says suitcase bomb in NY another says a Missile

Can the zionists make up their paranoid minds? You are claiming the moment Iran gets the bomb its going to use it on Israel but since America wont go and fight for your yellowbellied nation of chickens you now try to say that America will be the target. 

If you Israeli cowards get the courage  to actually go and fight Iran you better pray to your demon that all they have is rocks and slings.

melanie77
melanie77

no more wars for jewish donors................NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS CONSERVATIVE WILL VOTE OBAMA!!!!!!   I didnt think he had the guts to put his election on the line and refuse AIPAC demands to sacrifice our childrens lives again for israel

jagiela
jagiela

  This laughable performance by the Notinyabooboo just shows how desperate the man is to be taken seriously.  He has lost and the sooner he realizes it the better.  The US is not going to bomb Iran for him, Mitt the Dimwit is not going to win in November and Israel doesn't have the weapons to attack Iran.  The game is over.

   Soon the world will shut up the Booboo and force him to deal with the real issues:  the Zionazi occupation of Palestine.  Without Obama covering his sorry ass, nothing prevents a UN blockade to enforce UN resolutions 242  et al.  a forced withdrawel for all occupied territories or free democratic elections in the former Palestinian mandate.

   Loser is written all over his sorry ass.

Mu Çe
Mu Çe

The world knows that Iran is not an easy rabbit to catch!  Israil only speeds up its cruel end by accusing Iran of having nuclear weapons. Israel has many nuclear weapons and U.N does not want to hear that! We know the truth, that makes me relieved

Nabu555
Nabu555

No iran no problems

Mu Çe
Mu Çe

 No israel no problems

Danyz
Danyz

No brain, no pain...  But you already know this.

Zer0Sum
Zer0Sum

You don't need plutonium or enriched uranium to build a neutron bomb. All this talk of stopping the Iranian nuclear scientists from building bombs is ridiculous. Anyone with sufficient knowledge of nuclear physics can build a nuclear bomb from materials obtained at the corner store. Those kind of nuclear bombs are undetectable until they are detonated. Every major city in the world has at least one of them already primed and ready to go and if Israel thinks they are not already sitting on top of several of these kinds of nuclear weapons they are simply fooling themselves.

borisIII
borisIII

US is the last country that should bomb Iran's nuclear developments.  There is a lot of countries with the technology to do it successfully.  Tired of countries thinking we should be the ones that should go to war, pay for the wars and lose are citizens.  We've been doing it for the world since WWII.  So many muslims hate our interference in the world, but the terrorist would love it if the US bombed Iran.  Lets finally push other countries to make sacrifices to help the world not let them push us into it.

Nabu555
Nabu555

nuclear Iran=saudi arabia erase=no oil to usa=reach iran 

owenrules
owenrules

I don't know why Israel has not bombed Iran yet, who will care? Man has been killing man since the beginning of time, what difference will one more attack make. People are too stupid  to realize that giving ANY government the power to declare war and classify information is a guarantee that war will never end.

Kulwaant
Kulwaant

Time to stand on your own.