Arab Spring diverting attention from Iran, PM warns in US

Netanyahu distances himself from previous statement by former Mossad head that Iran would not reach nuclear potential until middle of decade.

May 26, 2011 02:22
2 minute read.
PM Netanyahu addresses Congress

PM Netanyahu addresses Congress fist 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Even as tensions with US President Barack Obama over the diplomatic process with the Palestinians dominated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s discussions in Washington over the past five days, Iran was not forgotten in either his speeches or conversations.

Netanyahu warned various interlocutors that the Arab Spring was diverting international attention from Iran’s nuclear march.

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In discussions on Iran during Netanyahu’s five-day visit in Washington, the prime minister distanced himself from the statement former Mossad head Meir Dagan made earlier in the year that Iran would not reach nuclear potential until the middle of the decade.

Iran had some 3,600 kilograms of low enriched uranium, it was made clear, and the assessments of the Israeli, British and American intelligence communities were, that if they wanted to – and made the political decision – the Iranians could reach the “break out point” very soon, and would not need the four years that Dagan predicted.

According to Israeli assessments, the sanctions imposed on Iran have not bent the country’s will, and the regime has not diverted one dollar from its nuclear program as a result of the sanctions.

Even though Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on the front of the issue, the feeling is that while he is “taking up a lot of space” and is a “colorful figure,” he is not the one calling the shots – that distinction goes to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, characterized during the discussions as a fanatic. The story was retold that when Khamenei met former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2000, he asked – unaware of Aznar’s friendship to Israel – how he could help him destroy Israel.

During Netanyahu’s visit, Israeli officials sounded the chilling warning that there was no certainty that if the Iranians got the bomb, the regime – with its share of people in leadership roles who hold apocalyptic positions – would not use it. The message was that the Iranians were not rational players like the Russians and Chinese during the Cold War, for whom Mutual Assured Destruction acted as a deterrent.

Even the Iranian reformist president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, it was recalled, referred to Israel as a “one bomb country.”

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