Expert: US rejection of red lines on Iran disturbing

Senior Israeli arms control expert Landau tells 'Post' Obama has set red lines effectively already.

September 18, 2012 21:10
2 minute read.
Centrale nucléaire Bushehr, au sud de Téhéran

Iran. (photo credit: Mohammad Babaie / Reuters)


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Israeli arms control expert Dr. Emily Landau says she is deeply uneasy over the unprecedented public dispute raging between Israel and the US over Iran’s nuclear program.

“The very public display of the US and Israel undermining each other must cease. The only winner is Iran,” she told The Jerusalem Post over the Rosh Hashana holiday.

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Landau, of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, is particularly disturbed by the Obama administration’s refusal to set red lines over Iran’s nuclear weapons program development, as well as the justifications coming out of Washington over this refusal.

Responding to comments made by US President Barak Obama and senior administration officials, who said last week that states do not set red lines, and that red lines limit their freedom of action, Landau said, “States do set red lines, and Obama himself has done so twice over the past year.”

She added that Washington effectively set red lines in response to Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, and, more recently, “to Assad about moving chemical weapons in Syria or to Lebanon.” Red lines are routinely used in international diplomacy as effective ways to leverage pressure and means to deter the other side, she added.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Landau noted that Washington has repeatedly and publicly told Jerusalem it must refrain from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, but then implicitly mocked Israel for not setting a red line itself on Iran, a position she found “disturbingly cynical.”


“Red lines should be understood as a lever of pressure on Iran to get it to – finally – be serious about a negotiation. While the US is a party to the negotiation with Iran, and setting a red line makes sense in this context, Israel most certainly is not, and therefore it would be inappropriate for it to set a red line. The responsibility for stopping Iran is on the shoulders of the P5, not Israel,” she said.

Last week, The New York Times cited an Obama administration official as saying that America’s only red line on Iran is nuclear weapons.

But that position “is obviously not taken seriously enough by Iran,” Landau argued. With Tehran closely following the public tit-for-tat between Israel and the US, Iranian decision makers have concluded that “the US is projecting a sense that it does not want things to come to military force, and it will be willing to go to great lengths to avoid it.” This is further reinforced by the fact that, on the one hand the US is still publicly supporting diplomacy, but on the other, there is no sign of any negotiations on the horizon.

Back in April, ahead of rounds of talks – that failed – in Istanbul, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that time was running out, “but time is now looking very elastic,” Landau said.

“This is all bad news for a more effective negotiation. And the only thing moving right now is Iran’s nuclear activity, as evidenced by the latest IAEA report of August 30,” she added.

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