Talk on Iran ‘red lines’ comes after U.S. general distances himself from Israeli strike

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Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Following U.S. General Martin Dempsey’s statement that he won’t support an Israeli strike on Iran and the report that the Islamic Republic has doubled its uranium enrichment capacity at Fordow, Israeli officials and others are expressing concern over America’s commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran and helping to defend Israel against that threat.

Dempsey, chairmain of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the following in London on Aug. 30 regarding the possibility of a unilateral Israeli military strike: “I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it.” He also said the “international coalition” applying pressure on Iran “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely.”

The New York Times reported Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama is now considering setting “red lines”—points that, if reached, would prompt America to take military action against Iran. However, Yedioth Ahronoth reported the same day that the U.S. has indirectly told Iran it won’t support Israeli military action if Iran agrees to “steer clear of strategic American assets in the Persian Gulf.” The U.S. used “covert back-channels in Europe” to convey this message to Iran, according to the newspaper.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the Yedioth Ahronoth report is “false” and that the U.S. doesn’t “talk about hypotheticals,” according to Reuters.

Click photo to download. Caption: President Barack Obama reflects while standing in the White House ground floor corridor in 2009. Obama might currently be mulling America's "red line" for a military strike on Iran, the New York Times reports. Credit: White House.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that the international community is failing to set a “clear red line” for Iran over its nuclear program. Netanyahu said Iran “doesn’t see determination” from other countries that they will do what it takes to stop its nuclear quest.

Netanyahu’s warning followed that of Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said Aug. 31 that “our friends in the United States” are “in part responsible” for the fact that Iran doesn’t fear international action against its nuclear program.

“There are many cracks in the ring closing tighter on Iran,” Ya’alon said.

According to the quarterly report issued last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has doubled its uranium enrichment capacity at its underground facility in Fordow.

Fordow, located 130 kilometers from Tehran, is the location where many in the West suspect that Iran is secretly carrying out its nuclear program. The IAEA report states that the number of centrifuges at Fordow increased to 2,140 from 1,064 in May, but adds that the new centrifuges are not operational yet.

The IAEA also expressed concerns about Parchin, a military site south of Tehran that it wants to inspect for evidence of past nuclear weapons development.

“Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano wrote in the report.

Netanyahu said Sunday that the IAEA report “confirmed what we have been saying for some time” in Israel.

While the Obama administration has repeatedly stressed that there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions to work in Iran, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told Ma’ariv that “time is on [Iran’s] side and they will continue with what seems like a well thought-out plan, mostly because they believe that the United States under Obama’s leadership will do nothing.”

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial Saturday stating that while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to wipe you off the map have “the ring of honesty,” Obama—who has said the U.S. “will always have Israel’s back”—leads an administration that is trying “to sell to the public a make-believe world in which Iran’s nuclear intentions are potentially peaceful, sanctions are working and diplomacy hasn’t failed after three and half years.”

“Not only is there waning confidence that Mr. Obama is prepared to take military action [against Iran] on his own, but there's also a fear that a re-elected President Obama will take a much harsher line on an Israeli attack than he would before the first Tuesday in November,” the editorial said.

Carney, the White House spokesman, said last week that Obama “has made clear frequently he is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Obama has said the U.S. position on Iran is that “all options are on the table” to prevent a nuclear Iran.

The president’s critics, on the other hand, question whether his administration would seriously consider a military option. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney highlighted the Iranian issue in his address to the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30, saying every American “is less secure today because [Obama] has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat.”

“In [Obama’s] first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran,” Romney said. “We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.” 

The Democratic incumbent has also said America “will always have Israel’s back.” Romney, however, said at the convention that Obama has “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”

“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed,” Romney said. “But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.”

Posted on September 3, 2012 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..