PM continues pushing world on 'red lines' for Iran

White House denies Israeli report it sent secret non-aggression messages to Iran; 'NY Times' reports the Obama administration is moving ahead with range of steps to forestall an Israeli attack.

Netanyahu R370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu R370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday continued his campaign to get the United States and the world to lay down a “red line” for Iran, amid initial signs that US President Barack Obama might now be willing to do so.
Netanyahu, during a meeting with a group of wounded US and Israeli veterans, said that the clearer the red line, the less likelihood there is of bloodshed.
Netanyahu said Iran, which he characterized as a “brutal regime,” was galloping forward with its nuclear program because it did not see a “clear red line from the international community. And it doesn’t see the necessary resolve and determination from the international community.”
The greater the resolve, and the clearer the red line, he said, the less would be the chance of conflict because the Iranians would be more likely to back off.
In other words, one government official said, an attack could be averted if plain benchmarks were established, and the Iranians were faced with a clear either/or proposition: Stop uranium enrichment and allow inspection of nuclear sites, or face military action.
Netanyahu’s comments came the same day that The New York Times ran a story saying the Obama administration was moving ahead “with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated.”
According to the report, a major naval exercise in the Persian Gulf, a new anti-missile system in Qatar and a more forceful clamp down on Iranian oil revenue were steps already in the works.
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The paper said the administration was also considering new declarations by Obama spelling out what might bring about military action – Netanyahu’s “red lines” – as well as more covert activity.
The New York Times report of a more aggressive US position contrasted sharply with a Yediot Aharonot report that said the US recently used two European countries to send messages to Iran saying the US would not be dragged into an Israeli attack, and in return expected Iran to refrain from striking US strategic targets in the region.
The White House sharply denied that report.
“It is incorrect, completely incorrect,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said while accompanying Obama on a campaign trip in Ohio.
“The report is false and we don’t talk about hypotheticals.”
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said he did not “know what kind of messages Yediot Aharonot heard, but [thinks] the Iranians understand... that if they cross a line towards a bomb, they could encounter very strong resistance, including all the options that are on the table – as the American president has said.”
Meridor, in an Israel Radio interview, said he did not sense a rupture in Israel’s ties with the US and stressed that it was very important to maintain Washington’s support.
The minister added that the international effort against Iran was taking its toll on the Iranians, who may now fear enriching uranium to a higher, bomb-grade level because of the knowledge they could encounter a very strong response if they crossed the line towards acquiring a nuclear bomb.
He said that the international community needed to increase its pressure by strengthening the sanctions against it. One step that some Israeli officials are calling for are sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom also dismissed the Yediot report and the notion that the US would not stand by Israel if it were to strike the Islamic Republic.
“The sole disagreement between Israel and the US is in regard to timing,” Shalom told Army Radio. “The US is obligated to the existential and security interests of Israel.
We are much closer than people think.”
In a related development, a senior Iranian military official said Monday Iran built about 30 percent of a missile defense system it is developing in place of the Russian S- 300 system Moscow refused to sell it.
Farzad Esmaili, commander of the army’s air defense force, also reiterated that Iran will hold a large-scale air defense exercise in the next two months covering the whole country, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.
Iran has unveiled upgrades to weapons systems and held several military exercises this year to demonstrate its ability to defend itself. ISNA quoted Esmaili on Monday as saying Iran would test its air defense systems in mid-to-late October or early November.
“We will use whatever we have in order to defend Iran,” Esmaili said. “Today the main threat is an air threat, because it achieves quick results, therefore it was felt it was necessary that air defenses work independently.... One of our missions is being vigilant over sensitive centers like refineries and nuclear sites,” Esmaili said.
“A new, more advanced system with higher capabilities than the S-300 in detecting, identifying and destroying targets is pending,” ISNA quoted Esmaili as saying. “About 30 percent of the work related to building the Bavar-373 has been completed and we will make efforts so that we can announce the completion of this project by next year.”
Moscow refused to sell the sophisticated S-300 system to Iran on the ground that it would violate expanded UN sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran announced in November 2010 that it had adapted another Russian-made missile system to perform more like the S-300, a precision, mobile, long-range air defense system that can detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft.
Military experts have cast doubt on Iran’s claims of weapons advances, especially regarding its missile program, saying they are often exaggerated.
On Sunday, Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Mohammad Eslami said plans were afoot to install missiles on long-distance unmanned drones that featured in missile tests earlier this year. Authorities say the Karrar drone, unveiled in 2010, has a range of 1,000 km. and can carry a single cruise missile or several smaller missiles.
Meanwhile, in a move that Israeli officials said had little significance, Iran allowed Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj to visit the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
Iran has allowed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the site in the past.
Elbegdorj took part in last weeks Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran, and his uranium-rich country is believed to be constructing its own nuclear power plant.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.