New York: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations on Thursday that he believes Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by next summer — a far more specific time-frame than he has asserted before. He urged the world to draw a clear “red line” to stop Iran in its tracks.
Saying it was getting ‘‘late, very late’’ to stop Iran, Netanyahu flashed a bomb drawing with a lit fuse showing Iran had already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment. Netanyahu then drew a red line with a marker on his bomb diagram to highlight the point of no return — the completion of the second stage and 90 percent enrichment.
Inspired by Netanyahu’s cartoonish-looking bomb, The Wall Street Journal immediately ran through some dramatic props used in past UN speeches which included Nikita Krushchev banging his shoe on the table. The Journal also dug up an old video of Hugo Chavez holding up and recommending Noam Chomsky’s book, Hegemony or Survival, which is critical of US foreign policy. In 2006, Chavez had everyone in the UN riveted by his theatrics when he called former president George W Bush the devil, crossed his heart and said the room still smelled of sulfur from Bush’s speech the day before.
Netanyahu’s speech at this year’s annual United Nations General Assembly was less theatrical than Chavez’s performance, but just as impassioned when he described the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, which he equated to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda. Netanyahu was on a roll as he cited Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel’s destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.
‘‘Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons,’’ Netanyahu said.
Israel has made it clear that it would launch pre-emptive military action rather than accept that Iran arm itself with the atomic bomb. Netanyahu’s speech is perhaps his final plea before Israel takes matters into its own hands. Israeli leaders have been champing at the bit, and displaying growing impatience with the US desire to press for a diplomatic solution.
The Obama administration has been irritated by what many advisers see as Israeli threats, and opposes a unilateral Israeli strike now on Iran. President Barack Obama, who is already stretched by the US presidential elections in November, has so far refused to set a deadline for Iran to back down or to publicly outline what Iranian nuclear milestone would trigger a US attack as a “last resort.” In his speech to the UN on Tuesday, Obama insisted that there was still diplomatic elbow room to negotiate a peaceful end to Iran’s program.
“US military and intelligence officials have said that an attack by Israel could ignite chaos and drag the United States into a new Mideast war. They also argue that an Israeli strike would be unlikely to completely destroy the Iranian program, possibly leaving the United States to finish the job,” said The Washington Post.
While Israel is convinced that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, American officials believe Iran has not yet made a final decision to take the plunge, even as it tinkers with the bomb-building infrastructure.
For its part Iran, in the form of its fiery and outspoken president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came to New York to dismiss the threat posed by “uncultured Zionists” (Israel) and insist its uranium enrichment has only peaceful ends.
Ahmadinejad took his usual jabs at the United States and Israel, except that this time, he was calmer and far more subtle. Time magazine felt cheated that in what’s likely to be Ahmadinejad’s last appearance at the UN General Assembly, the normally fiery Iran president bowed out with a whimper.
“Ahmadinejad, in his eighth and likely last appearance before the General Assembly, spoke vacuously about not all that much, huffing and puffing about a ‘new world order’ with little of the brio that in the past compelled diplomats to stand up and walk out mid-speech,” said Time.