Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red line – literally – on Iran's nuclear weapons program Thursday during his speech at the United Nations, raising pressure on President Obama to follow suit.
Armed with a red marker and a crude cartoon drawing of a bomb, the Israeli leader told the world that it will be too late to prevent the “medieval” regime in Iran from terrorizing the world once it has enough enriched uranium. He said the United States and Israel see eye-to-eye on the issue.
The speech comes as tensions between Netanyahu and Obama have reached new highs following the White House's refusal to set red lines on Iran's nuclear program. The Obama administration says it still believes sanctions can persuade Iran to change course, and that a military strike is not yet necessary.
“The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb,” Netanyahu said. “The relevant question is, at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb? The red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program, because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.”
“And I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.”
Netanyahu said Iran will have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb by next spring or next summer. After that, he said, it would only take a few months — or even weeks — to build a detonator, which he said could be built in a “small workshop the size of a classroom" and thus escape detection.
The Israeli leader went on to say that setting a clear red line, rather than courting conflict, would in fact make war less likely.
“In fact,” he said, “it's the failure to set red lines that's often invited aggression.”
Netanyahu acknowledged that U.S.-backed sanctions have hit Iran hard, but said they've been ineffective in achieving their objective.
“It's had an effect on the economy,” he said, “but we must face the truth: Sanctions have not stopped Iran's nuclear program.”
He called Iran a country stuck in the “medieval” mindset of radical Islam, and said it could not be contained like the communist Soviet Union.