“Israel and the U.S. are discussing ‘red lines’ in Iran’s nuclear program, that if crossed would justify a preemptive strike on its nuclear facilities,” reports Haaretz citing an article in the Daily Beast. But no one in the Obama administration is spelling out what those red lines would be. It sounds less like preparation to issue concrete threats to Iran and more like the latest display of a threatening posture — which is not to say there’s no reason for concern, but simply that the headlines with ‘red lines’ and ‘triggers’ may overstate what’s happening.
Eli Lake reports: Until recently, current and former Obama administration officials would barely broach the topic in public, only hinting vaguely that all options are on the table to stop Iran’s program. Part of the reason for this was that Obama came into office committed to pursuing negotiations with Iran. When the diplomatic approach petered out, the White House began building international and economic pressure on Iran, often in close coordination with Israel.
All the while, secret sabotage initiatives like a computer worm known as Stuxnet that infected the Siemens-made logic boards at the Natanz centrifuge facility in Iran, continued apace. New U.S. estimates say that Stuxnet delayed Iran’s nuclear enrichment work by at most a year, despite earlier estimates that suggested the damage was more extensive.
Last week in a CBS interview, Panetta said Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon is a “red line.” White House advisers have more recently broached the subject more specifically in private conversations with outside experts on the subject.
Patrick Clawson, the director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, “If Iran were found to be sneaking out or breaking out then the president’s advisers are firmly persuaded he would authorize the use of military force to stop it.” But Clawson added, “The response they frequently get from the foreign policy experts is considerable skepticism that this is correct, not that these people are lying to us, but rather when the occasion comes we just don’t know how the president will react.”