Thursday, October 3, 2013

Netanyahu at UN: Stop Iran —- or We Will

by P. David Hornik


In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu provided a dose of much-needed realism and clarity on the Iranian nuclear issue.

After some rhetorical flourishes about Jewish history, Netanyahu began with the “charmer,” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Why a poker-faced Holocaust denier was found charming by so many people is a good question, but charming they found him, and there probably wasn’t a single mainstream news outlet that didn’t call President Obama’s brief phone chat with him “historic.”

So Netanyahu reviewed some hard facts about Rouhani that reality-oriented commentators have been noting for a few months now. In the past he was a sinister terror chief, head of Iran’s National Security Council in the years of the Buenos Aires bombing and the Khobar Towers bombing, which killed 85 mostly Jewish civilians and 19 American servicemen, respectively.

He’s also a seasoned con man, proud of having duped the West in the past on Iran’s nuclear program. “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan,” Rouhani wrote in 2011 about his 2003-2005 stint as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator—Isfahan, as Netanyahu clarified, being the facility where Iran turns uranium ore into uranium for the bombs it will soon be producing en masse unless something is done about it.

Still more material on Rouhani has surfaced in an overview by Steven Ditto of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It turns out, for instance, that Rouhani blamed 9/11 on the “wrongs and mistakes of American policies,” and said Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, was “shot down by the U.S. Air Force.”

Anyone still charmed by the charmer is, well, determined to be charmed no matter what.
If the “charm offensive” is, then, a transparent fraud, and Iran remains, as Netanyahu put it, a “fanatic regime” that keeps building ICBMS that will be able to reach the U.S., rapidly amassing stockpiles of both 3-percent and 20-percent enriched uranium, and adding thousands of new centrifuges including advanced ones—does much-vaunted diplomacy still have any role to play?

Netanyahu said it did, but said diplomacy would have to “require Iran to do four things” that are, unfortunately, unimaginable:
First, cease all uranium enrichment…. Second, remove from Iran’s territory the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Third, dismantle the infrastructure for nuclear breakout capability, including the underground facility at Qom and the advanced centrifuges in Natanz.
And, four, stop all work at the heavy water reactor in Arak aimed at the production of plutonium. These steps would put an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and eliminate its breakout capability.
They would, but getting Iran to go through with them would, of course, require a very tough and resolute leader of the West. “Tough and resolute” are words no one would have applied to Obama’s foreign policy even before the Syrian debacle, even less after he allowed himself to be played by Russian president Vladimir Putin on the world stage.

In spelling out what shape successful diplomacy would have to take, however, Netanyahu sought to convey two things: that Israel does not oppose diplomacy in principle, in fact would prefer it if it could succeed; and that Israel will not settle for a sham diplomatic “solution” that leaves enough of Iran’s nuclear facilities in place that it will stay on its path toward the bomb.

And if Iran’s program is left standing, Israel, Netanyahu said toward the end of the talk,
will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map. Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself.
I want there to be no confusion on this point. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons….
Netanyahu gave his talk on a day when the New York Times and others were reporting that the sanctions are taking a very serious toll on Iran’s economy; as he put it, “the international community has Iran on the ropes.” Netanyahu can take the credit for finally getting the West to relate seriously to the problem and make Iran pay a price for its blatant defiance of Security Council resolutions meant to curb its nuclear program. Netanyahu cannot, however, rest easy with the thought that a Ronald Reagan is now in the White House who would know how to exploit the situation and bring a totalitarian enemy to its knees.

Not surprisingly, since it would be impolitic especially on U.S. soil, Netanyahu did not raise the possibility of a U.S. strike on Iran. Whether or not he believes such a possibility exists is a function of his hours of talks with Obama and the impression he derives from them. Again, it seems unlikely that Netanyahu puts much stock in such an outcome.

If, then, all else fails, will Israel indeed take matters in its own hands? Given the depth of Netanyahu’s identification with Jewish history and the power of his sense of responsibility, the working assumption should be that it will.

P. David Hornik


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