WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is just months away from a nuclear-bomb capability, and preemptive military action is preferable to a nuclear-armed Tehran. Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to insist that existing sanctions may yet convince Iran to change course.
Netanyahu told an American television audience Iran is in a final sprint to nuclear-weapons capability.
“They are very close. They are six months away from being about 90 percent of having enriched uranium for an atom bomb.”
The prime minister spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program, days after chiding the international community for what he perceives as its failure to set a clear “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program that would trigger a military response. Netanyahu again argued for a more aggressive international military posture towards Tehran, saying preemptive action is the lesser of two evils.
“A lot of leaders call me, tell me, ‘Do not do it, it is not necessary. The danger of acting is much greater than not acting.’ And I always say the danger of not acting, in time, is much greater. Because Iran with nuclear weapons would mean that the kind of fanaticism you see storming your embassies would have a nuclear weapon.”
The Israeli leader’s position contrasts with that of the Obama administration. Also appearing on Meet the Press was America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who said Iran has yet to cross the nuclear-weapons threshold.
“They are not there yet. And our assessment is - and we share this regularly with our Israeli counterparts in the intelligence and defense community - that there is time and space for the pressure we are mounting, which is unprecedented in terms of sanctions, to still yield results. This is not imminent.”
Rice noted that international sanctions are taking a heavy toll on Iran’s economy. She said President Barack Obama is committed to preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, but will exhaust all non-military options before going to war.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Differences of opinion between the United States and Israel over Iran are being highlighted during the U.S. presidential campaign.
Obama’s Republican Party challenger, former Governor Mitt Romney, has accused the president of throwing Israel “under the bus” [abandoning Israel].
Asked about the charge of U.S. abandonment of Israel, Netanyahu declined to comment on U.S. presidential politics, but said he believes President Obama is sincere in his determination to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.