Obama Officials Rebuff Israel’s Request to Set a ‘Clear Red Line’ on Iran Nukes

Secretary of State Clinton in Russia on Sunday (State Department Photo)

In two instances this week, the Obama administration made clear it is rejecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call that a “clear red line” be set for Iran. According to the State Department spokeswoman, this is because President Obama continues to believe negotiations can stop Iran in its apparent attempt to develop a nuclear weapons’ capability.

The Times of Israel spoke to Israeli officials who are slamming the U.S. position. It reports:

Official Jerusalem struck back at the US Monday for saying it would not set clear red lines beyond which it would support a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Words like these won’t stop the centrifuges, but the opposite,” an unnamed source said. […]

Israeli sources said the US refusal would detract from the credibility of the threat that Iran could come under military attack if it doesn’t abandon its program.

“Without a firm and clear red line, Iran won’t stop its race for a nuclear weapon,” a source said. “Words like these don’t only not deter Iran, they calm it.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Bloomberg radio that she and her administration colleagues believe in the negotiations, diplomatic efforts and sanctions. She said:

We’re not setting deadlines. We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions and their words.

She added:

[…] We’re convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good faith negotiation.

Evidence suggests that not only have sanctions and negotiations not stopped or slowed Iran’s clandestine nuclear efforts, they appear to have sped them up. It’s unclear why Secretary Clinton and President Obama believe that an Iran that’s been lying to IAEA inspectors will suddenly engage in “good faith negotiation.”

Also on Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the daily briefing:

So we are absolutely firm about the President’s commitment here, but it is not useful to be parsing it, to be setting deadlines one way or the other, redlines. It is most important that we stay intensely focused on the pressure on Iran, the opportunity for Iran to fix this situation through the diplomacy that we’ve offered, and intensive consultations with Israel and all the other regional states, as we are doing.

Netanyahu is sticking to his “red line” demand, telling the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that “Iran will not stop unless it sees clear determination by the democratic countries of the world and a clear red line.”  He said:

“I don’t think they see a clear red line, and I think the sooner we establish one, the greater the chances that there won’t be a need for other types of action.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak who is reported to favor a military option sooner rather than later – before Iran’s underground nuclear bunkers are immune to attack — said on Monday that a military strike is the last resort:

“The political echelon sees as its responsibility ensuring that if there is a way to reject war, that it be done, and we confirm that if we go to war this will only be after all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

Media reports have been rife speculating when and if Israel might conduct a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. If the U.S. and other allies were to set a “clear red line,” that could make strides in convincing Israeli leaders they are not on their own in thwarting Iran’s nuclear march.