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Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran-Or I Will

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  • Beowulf
    I have thought this would happen at sometime. I am surprised it took this long. I don t think Netanyahu will screw around. He means business. Last sentence
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1 9:48 AM
      I have thought this would happen at sometime. I am surprised it took this
      long. I don't think Netanyahu will screw around. He means business. Last
      sentence sums up his philosophy pretty well.

      by <http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/by/jeffrey_goldberg_> Jeffrey Goldberg

      In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime
      minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack
      Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring
      nuclear weapons-and quickly-or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack
      Iran's nuclear facilities itself.

      "The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and
      preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told me. He said
      the Iranian nuclear challenge represents a "hinge of history" and added that
      "Western civilization" will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop
      nuclear weapons.

      In unusually blunt language, Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership, "You
      don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the
      wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass
      death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is
      happening in Iran."

      History teaches Jews that threats against their collective existence should
      be taken seriously, and, if possible, preempted, he suggested. In recent
      years, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has regularly called for
      Israel to be " <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4378948.stm>
      wiped off the map," and the supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, this
      month called Israel a "
      > cancerous tumor."

      But Netanyahu also said that Iran threatens many other countries apart from
      Israel, and so his mission over the next several months is to convince the
      world of the broad danger posed by Iran. One of his chief security advisers,
      Moshe Ya'alon, told me that a nuclear Iran could mean the end of American
      influence in the Middle East. "This is an existential threat for Israel, but
      it will be a blow for American interests, especially on the energy front.
      Who will dominate the oil in the region-Washington or Tehran?"

      Netanyahu said he would support President Obama's decision to engage Iran,
      so long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran's nuclear
      ambitions. "How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it,"
      he said, but he added that he was skeptical that Iran would respond
      positively to Obama's appeals. In an hour-long conversation, held in the
      Knesset, Netanyahu tempered his aggressive rhetoric with an acknowledgement
      that nonmilitary pressure could yet work. "I think the Iranian economy is
      very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted
      up by a variety of means." When I suggested that this statement contradicted
      his assertion that Iran, by its fanatic nature, is immune to pressure,
      Netanyahu smiled thinly and said, "Iran is a composite leadership, but in
      that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do
      not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That's
      what makes them so dangerous."

      He went on, "Since the dawn of the nuclear age, we have not had a fanatic
      regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest. People say that
      they'll behave like any other nuclear power. Can you take the risk? Can you
      assume that?"

      Netanyahu offered Iran's behavior during its eight-year war with Iraq as
      proof of Tehran's penchant for irrational behavior. Iran "wasted over a
      million lives without batting an eyelash . It didn't sear a terrible wound
      into the Iranian consciousness. It wasn't Britain after World War I, lapsing
      into pacifism because of the great tragedy of a loss of a generation. You
      see nothing of the kind."

      He continued: "You see a country that glorifies blood and death, including
      its own self-immolation." I asked Netanyahu if he believed Iran would risk
      its own nuclear annihilation at the hands of Israel or America. "I'm not
      going to get into that," he said.

      Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a
      deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide
      said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, "not years."
      These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran's defenses
      remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American
      approval to launch an attack. "The problem is not military capability, the
      problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take
      action," one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me.

      Both Israeli and American intelligence officials agree that Iran is moving
      forward in developing a nuclear-weapons capability. The chief of Israeli
      military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin,
      l&cid=1236269373103> said earlier this month that Iran has already "crossed
      the technological threshold," and that nuclear military capability could
      soon be a fact: "Iran is continuing to amass hundreds of kilograms of
      low-enriched uranium, and it hopes to exploit the dialogue with the West and
      Washington to advance toward the production of an atomic bomb."

      American officials argue that Iran has not crossed the "technological
      threshold"; the director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair,
      <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7935947.stm> said recently that Israel
      and the U.S. are working with the same set of facts, but are interpreting it
      differently. "The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take
      more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view," he
      said. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, recently
      warned that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would undermine
      stability in the Middle East and endanger the lives of Americans in the
      Persian Gulf.

      The Obama administration agrees with Israel that Iran's nuclear program is a
      threat to Middle East stability, but it also wants Israel to focus on the
      Palestinian question. Netanyahu, for his part, promises to move forward on
      negotiations with the Palestinians, but he made it clear in our conversation
      that he believes a comprehensive peace will be difficult to achieve if Iran
      continues to threaten Israel, and he cited Iran's sponsorship of such
      Islamist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas as a stumbling block.

      Ya'alon, a former army chief of staff who is slated to serve as Netanyahu's
      minister for strategic threats, dismissed the possibility of a revitalized
      peace process, telling me that "jihadists" interpret compromise as weakness.
      He cited the reaction to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza four years
      ago. "The mistake of disengagement from Gaza was that we thought like
      Westerners, that compromise would defuse a problem-but it just encouraged
      the problem," he said. "The jihadists saw withdrawal as a defeat of the West
      . Now, what do you signal to them if you are ready to divide Jerusalem, or
      if you're ready to withdraw to the 1967 lines? In this kind of conflict,
      your ability to stand and be determined is more important than your

      American administration sources tell me that President Obama won't shy from
      pressuring Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue during his first visit to
      Washington as prime minister, which is scheduled for early May. But
      Netanyahu suggested that he and Obama already see eye-to-eye on such crucial
      issues as the threat posed by Hamas. "The Obama administration has recently
      said that Hamas has to first recognize Israel and cease the support of
      terror. That's a very good definition. It says you have to cease being

      When I noted that many in Washington doubt his commitment to curtailing
      Jewish settlement on the West Bank, he said, in reference to his previous
      term as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999, "I can only point to what I did
      as prime minister in the first round. I certainly didn't build new

      Netanyahu will manage Israel's relationship with Washington personally-his
      foreign minister, <http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200705/avigdor-lieberman>
      Avigdor Lieberman, of the anti-Arab Israel Beiteinu party, is deeply
      unpopular in Washington-and I asked him if he could foresee agreeing on a
      "grand bargain" with Obama, in which he would move forward on talks with the
      Palestinians in exchange for a robust American response to Iran's nuclear
      program. He said: "We intend to move on the Palestinian track independent of
      what happens with Iran, and I hope the U.S. moves to stop Iran from gaining
      nuclear weapons regardless of what happens on the Palestinian track."

      In our conversation, Netanyahu gave his fullest public explication yet of
      why he believes President Obama must consider Iran's nuclear ambitions to be
      his preeminent overseas challenge. "Why is this a hinge of history? Several
      bad results would emanate from this single development. First, Iran's
      militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror
      activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any
      confrontation that they'd force on Israel. Instead of being a local event,
      however painful, it becomes a global one.. Second, this development would
      embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would
      believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the
      ultimate road to triumph.

      "Third, they would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply
      of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world's oil supply. Fourth, they may
      threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their
      own, or fabricate terror proxies. Finally, you'd create a great sea change
      in the balance of power in our area-nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set
      opposed to Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even
      if they don't say it, that the U..S. will act to prevent this, that it will
      use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent
      this from happening."

      If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Netanyahu asserted, Washington's Arab
      allies would drift into Iran's orbit. "The only way I can explain what will
      happen to such regimes is to give you an example from the past of what
      happened to one staunch ally of the United States, and a great champion of
      peace, when another aggressive power loomed large.. I'm referring to the
      late King Hussein [of Jordan] . who was an unequalled champion of peace. The
      same King Hussein in many ways subordinated his country to Saddam Hussein
      when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Saddam seemed all-powerful, unchallenged
      by the United States, and until the U.S. extracted Kuwait from Saddam's
      gullet, King Hussein was very much in Iraq's orbit. The minute that changed,
      the minute Saddam was defeated, King Hussein came back to the Western camp."

      One of Iran's goals, Netanyahu said, is to convince the moderate Arab
      countries not to enter peace treaties with Israel. Finally, he said, several
      countries in Iran's neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of
      their own. "Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms
      race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a
      nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox," he said.

      Few in Netanyahu's inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans
      to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it.
      The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his
      advisers, is to frighten Israel's most talented citizens into leaving their
      country. "The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to
      weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,"
      Moshe Ya'alon said. "The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a
      safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of

      The Israeli threat to strike Iran militarily if the West fails to stop the
      nuclear program may, of course, be a tremendous bluff. After all, such
      threats may just be aimed at motivating President Obama and others to
      grapple urgently with the problem. But Netanyahu and his advisers seem to
      believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle
      East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action;
      many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos.

      As I waited in the Knesset cafeteria to see Netanyahu, I opened a book he
      edited of his late brother's letters. Yoni Netanyahu, a commando leader, was
      killed in 1976 during the Israeli raid on Entebbe, and his family organized
      his letters in a book they titled
      im/> Self-Portrait of a Hero. In one letter, Yoni wrote to his teenage
      brother, then living in America, who had apparently been in a fight after
      someone directed an anti-Semitic remark at him. "I see . that you had to
      release the surplus energy you stored up during the summer," Yoni wrote.
      "There's nothing wrong with that. But it's too bad you sprained a finger in
      the process. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with a good fist fight; on
      the contrary, if you're young and you're not seriously hurt, it won't do you
      real harm. Remember what I told you? He who delivers the first blow, wins."

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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