Benjamin Netanyahu has again warned that Israel will not wait “until it’s too late” to stymie Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and that scientists in the Islamic Republic could be ready to make a push towards producing a bomb within a few weeks.
In a rare interview with the Western media, Mr Netanyahu told the US television network CBS that Iran is getting “closer and closer to the bomb”. “I will not wait until it’s too late,” he added. The comments come on the eve US Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest visit to the region.
Mr Netanyahu has made stopping Iran’s nuclear programme his priority since being returned to office in January. Until now, Israeli officials have maintained that its allies – by which they largely mean the United States – should present a credible military threat as well as the crippling economic sanctions that have already been imposed on Tehran.
Mr Netanyahu appeared to hint in the CBS interview that he felt that a decision on any military action against Iran may be nearing. “They’re edging up to the red line,” Mr Netanyahu said in reference to a speech he made to the United Nations last year in which he held up a cartoon picture of a bomb with a red line drawn across it, to demonstrate how close Iran is to producing a bomb. “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate - that is, within a few weeks,” he said.
Iran denies that its nuclear programme is intent on making a nuclear weapon, rather it is designed for the production of efficient nuclear energy.
Some in the West welcomed last month’s election of Hassan Rouhani as the next president of Iran, pointing out that among the list of six candidates, he was the most moderate. At the time of his election, Dr Rouhani made conciliatory statements in relation to the US, and on Iran’s nuclear programme; a marked change from the approach adopted by his predecessor, the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“We’ve spoken many times, President Obama and I, about the need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I know that is the US policy. What is important is to convey to them, especially after the election, that that policy will not change. ...And [it] should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions. You should ratchet up the sanctions and make it clear to Iran that they won’t get away with it. And if sanctions don’t work, they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action - that's the only thing that will get their attention.”
Mr Netanyahu, dismissed the idea that Dr Rouhani’s election would lead to a change in Iranian nuclear policy. Mr Netanyahu said that Dr Rohani had himself referred to Mr Ahmadinejad as being “a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” Dr Rohani’s approach, though, the Israeli leader said, is to, “be a wolf in sheep’s clothing - smile and build a bomb.”