From Reuters, Sep 16, 2012, by Matt Spetalnick and Dan Williams in WASHINGTON and JERUSALEM:
WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Iran was just six to seven months
away from the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb, adding urgency to his
demand that President Barack Obama set a "red line" for Tehran...
Taking to the television airwaves to make his case directly to the American
public, Netanyahu said that by mid-2013 Iran would be "90 percent of the way"
toward enough enriched uranium for a weapon. He again urged the United States to
spell out limits that Tehran must not cross if it is to avoid military action -
something Obama has refused to do.
"You have to place that red line before them now, before it's too late,"
Netanyahu said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, adding that such a U.S. move
could reduce the chances of having to attack Iran's nuclear sites....
It was the clearest marker Netanyahu has laid down so far on why he has
become so strident in his push for Washington to confront Tehran with a strict
..."It's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. You
want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?" Netanyahu asked in the NBC
interview, in a clear emotional appeal to Americans still reeling from the [violent Islamist]
'IN THE RED ZONE'
Speaking via satellite from Jerusalem, Netanyahu argued that a credible U.S.
ultimatum was needed to curb Iran, which denies it is seeking a nuclear
"They're in the ‘red zone,'" Netanyahu said, using an American football
metaphor for when a team is close to scoring a touchdown. "You can't let them
cross that goal line."
Susan Rice, Obama's U.N. envoy, offered no sign that Obama - who has asked
Netanyahu to hold off on any strike on Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions
and diplomacy time to work - intended to soften his resistance to red
"We will take no option off the table to ensure that (Iran) does not acquire
a nuclear weapon, including a military option," Rice told "Meet the Press,"
reiterating Obama's longstanding position but insisting "they are not there
Israeli leaders, who see Iran's nuclear advances as a looming threat, have
made clear they are operating on a far tighter window than the United States,
with a superpower's mighty conventional arsenal at its disposal.
Asked whether Israel was closer to acting on its own, Netanyahu said: "We
always reserve the right to act. But I think that if we are able to coordinate
together a common position, we increase the chances that neither one of us will
have to act."
Obama, seeking re-election in November, has faced criticism from Republican
rival Mitt Romney that the president is being too tough with Israel and not
tough enough with Iran.
But Netanyahu took a more neutral posture on the election, denied he was
meddling in U.S. politics in support of fellow conservative Romney and distanced
himself from the Republican's accusation Obama was "throwing Israeli under the
Netanyahu's sharpened rhetoric in recent days had stoked speculation that
Israel might attack Iran before the U.S. election, believing that Obama would
give it military help and not risk alienating pro-Israeli voters....
He said he appreciated Obama's assurances Iran would not be allowed to obtain
a nuclear weapon. But Netanyahu, whose "red line" demands have infuriated U.S.
officials, made clear that was not enough. "I think a red line, in this case,
works to reduce the chances of the need for military action," he said.
In his most specific comments on Iran's nuclear work, Netanyahu told CNN:
"They're moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that
they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent
of the way there."
He appeared to be referring to Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20 percent
purity, a level it says is required for medical isotopes but which also is close
to bomb-fuel grade. According to an August report by U.N. inspectors, Iran has
stockpiled 91.4 kg of the 20 percent material.
Experts say about 200-250 kg (440-550 pounds) would be the minimum required
to enrich further into enough material for a bomb, a threshold Iran could
potentially reach soon by producing roughly 15 kg (33 pounds) a month, a rate
that could be speeded up if it activates new uranium centrifuges.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that Iran may be approaching a
"zone of immunity" in which Israeli bombs would be unable to penetrate buried
facilities. The United States has more potent weapons that could do the
Israel's concern is that Iran be prevented from reaching nuclear weapons
capability, not just from developing an actual device, and they worry time is
running out. Israel is widely believed to possess the Middle East's only nuclear
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told Israel Radio the United States should
not wait for Iran to decide on building a bomb before it considers military
Netanyahu did not repeat his harsh comments of last week that Washington had
lost any "moral right" to restrain Israel because it had refused to put strict
U.S. limits on Tehran....