Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday launched an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government over its stance on the Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu said the United States had forfeited its moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran’s nuclear program because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.
In comments which appeared to bring the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran closer, Netanyahu took the Obama administration to task after Washington rebuffed his own call to set a red-line for Tehran’s nuclear drive.
Speaking in English Netanyahu said, “The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red-lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red-light before Israel,” he added, addressing a news conference with Bulgaria’s prime minister.
Netanyahu’s comments came as diplomats said six world powers – including the United States – were poised to voice “serious concern” about Iran’s uranium enrichment program and to urge Tehran to open-up access to suspected nuclear sites.
Although talks with Iran do not appear to produce results, Netanyahu continued to push Obama to adopt a tougher line against Iran. He argued that setting a clear boundary for Iran’s uranium enrichment activities and imposing stronger economic sanctions could deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and mitigate the need for military action.
However, on Monday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would not set a deadline in further talks with Iran, saying there was still time for diplomacy to work. Since America is flying blind, so to speak, because a lack of intelligence, some wonder how Americans would know, or think they know, when Iran would have a nuclear bomb.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, the Iran nuclear program became a priority and efforts were made to curtail Tehran’s efforts to enrich uranium through several United Nations Security Council resolutions. In December 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737, which urged all UN member states “to prevent the supply, sale or transfer” of any goods to Iran that could be used to further its nuclear program. The following year, the UN Security Council passed another resolution blacklisting financial institutions used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the government body suspected of controlling the Iran nuclear program.
Although the UN resolutions have tried to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program, they have largely been seen as unsuccessful, and Iran continues to defy international demands. Iran’s escalation of threats against its Middle Eastern neighbor Israel, and its support for Palestinian and Lebanese terror groups have led the Israeli government on a campaign to expose Iran’s military plans for its nuclear ambitions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, has reported that Iran is using its centrifuges to enrich uranium, which could be upgraded and enriched to a level for military use. Revelations in September 2009 of a secret second uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom intensified the mistrust over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and paved the way for more sanctions.
Demands for stronger sanctions came again in early February 2010 when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that his country had rejected a package deal with the West to send its uranium abroad, which would then be returned as fuel rods. These demands resulted in a further round of sanctions on Tehran, including tighter financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo, but were not the crippling sanctions the U.S. and Israel were seeking.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Washington would have little more than a year to act to stop Tehran if it decided to produce a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu has had a strained relationship with President Barak Obama over Iran and other issues, such as Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
But he has never put differences with Obama – who has pledged he will “always have Israel’s back” and is deep in a re-election campaign – in the context of morality.
The website of Israel’s Haaretz daily newspaper said Netanyahu had carried out “an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government.”
Iran, which denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, has threatened to retaliate against Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf if it attacked, and Obama’s re-election bid could be thrown off-course by a new war.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney has accused him of throwing Israel “under the bus.”
By D. Lindley Young