US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the powerful presentation of his case for confronting Iran with red lines instead of hitherto failed diplomacy and sanctions in his speech to the UN General Assembly Thursday, Sept. 27. This is reported byDEBKAfile’s Washington sources.
Neither released a statement from their conversation of an hour and a quarter one-on-one shortly after the speech.
Our sources report that Clinton made it clear that President Barack Obama would not tolerate the Israeli prime minister having a say in his Iran agenda. He remained committed to diplomacy regardless of Netanyahu’s warning that it was getting “late, very late” to stop a nuclear Iran.
Clinton accordingly announced a decision by the world powers to go into another round of nuclear negotiations with Iran, although after the breakdown of diplomacy in July, they expected an improved Iranian offer. EU foreign executive Catherine Ashton was directed to get in touch with Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalilee for another attempt to set up talks, although when the two officials met in Istanbul on Sept. 18, they made no headway.
DEBKAfile: US steps early Friday Sept. 28 put the clock back five days to Monday when Obama dismissed Netanyahu’s advocacy of agreed red lines for warning Iran off its nuclear bomb program as “background noises” which he systematically blocked. This reversal came after White House and Israeli officials had begun discussing moving the critical timeline for that program to late spring, early summer 2013, instead of this year.
DEBKAfile reported earlier:
Addressing the UN General Assembly Thursday, Sept. 27 Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu graphically depicted Israel’s red line for Iran. He held up a simple diagram showing that Iran had covered 70 percent of the distance to a nuclear bomb and must be stopped before it reached the critical stage next spring or early summer of 2013.
He stressed that it is getting late, very late to stop a nuclear Iran.
The best way, he said, is to lay down a clear red line on the most vulnerable element of its nuclear program: uranium enrichment. “I believe that if faced with a clear and credible red line, Iran will back down and may even disband its program,” he said.
Red lines prevent wars, don’t start them and in fact deterred Iran from blocking the Strait of Hormuz.
Israel and the US are in discussion over this issue, said Netanyahu. “I’m sure we can forge a way forward together."
He went on to accuse Iran of spreading terrorist networks in two dozen countries and turning Lebanon and Gaza into terror strongholds. Hoping a nuclear-armed Iran will bring stability is like hoping a nuclear al Qaeda will bring world peace, the prime minister remarked.
DEBKAfile quotes some Washington sources as disclosing that the White House and Israel emissaries have come to an understanding that Israel will hold back from attacking Iran’s nuclear sites before the US election in November, while a special team set up by President Barack Obama completes a new paper setting out the end game for Iran.
He put the team to work after concluding that negotiations with Iran had exhausted their usefulness. Gary Samore, top presidential adviser on nuclear proliferation, leads the team.
Netanyahu’s citing of late spring, early summer 2013, as the critical point on Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb appears to confirm that he has agreed to delay military action against Iran following negotiations with the White House on the next agreed steps. Our sources report that the prime minister was represented in those talks by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror.
According to another view, which is current in Washington’s intelligence community, Israel was finally persuaded to delay by fresh intelligence presented by the Obama administration which showed that Israeli estimates were overly pessimistic in judging the timeline for Iran’s nuclear facilities to be buried in “immunity zones.” That timeline extended to spring 2013, leaving Israel five to six months up to April-May for ordering a military operation against those sites.
However, we have learned that Israeli intelligence circles dispute their American colleagues’ estimate as “interesting” but inaccurate. Netanyahu, in his speech, confirmed that Washington and Jerusalem were constantly exchanging views and evaluations on the state of Iran’s nuclear program.
He also made the point that while intelligence services, American and Israeli alike, had remarkable aptitudes, their estimates on Iran were not foolproof. He was referrng to the Pentagon claim that when Iran was ready to build a bomb, American intelligence would know about it in good time.