Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been busy: he’s been giving interviews warning that a strike on Iran is not necessarily months away but could be weeks away. And, to underscore that he’s serious, he made the statement in three interviews:
An attack on Iran could take place within a matter of months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a series of television interviews on Thursday.
“We’re not standing with a stopwatch in hand,” he said. “It’s not a matter of days or weeks, but also not of years. The result must be removal of the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands.
Netanyahu gave separate interviews to all three Israeli television stations, the first he has given since his return from Washington earlier this week. The full interviews will air on Saturday night, but excerpts were broadcast Thursday.
“I hope there won’t be a war at all, and that the pressure on Iran will succeed,” the prime minister stressed, noting that his preferred choice would be for Iran to halt its nuclear program and dismantle the uranium enrichment facility located in an underground site near Qom. “That would make me happiest,” he said. “I think every citizen of Israel would be happy.”
This quote fully expresses what the Israeli PM feels is at stake:
“Making decisions isn’t the problem; it’s making the right decision,” Netanyahu added. “If you don’t make the decision and don’t succeed in preventing this [an Iranian nuke], to whom will you explain this – to the historians? To the generations before you, and the generations that won’t come after you?”
The interviews come within the context of the recent meeting in Washington between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. Some analysts later said Netanyahu seemed pleased with how the meeting went. The Telegraph gives this background:
The last week has been consequential for the future of Iran and its nuclear programme. It has not, however, been very clarifying. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, and came away with both more and less than he might have hoped.
On the one hand, he extracted from President Obama a quite remarkable pledge: that the United States would go to war if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon. Only one country – Israel – has ever waged war for this purpose alone, setting aside the idiosyncratic case of the United States nine years ago in Iraq.
Washington considered such preventive action against the nuclear programmes of Germany in the 1940s, China in the 1960s and North Korea in the 1990s. The Soviets thought about attacking the programmes of Israel in the 1960s and South Africa in the 1970s. India toyed with a strike on Pakistan in the 1980s. None of these countries ever had the stomach to go ahead. Now, America has issued a loud and historic commitment to do so – one that it may come to regret.
Israelis will welcome this safety net below them. 58 per cent of polled Israelis oppose a strike on Iran without US backing. Obama also sent a message of restraint. He expects Israel to wait for diplomacy to exhaust itself, and the sanctions to be tested, before any precipitous action.
Netanyahu complained last week that the sanctions – the fiercest ever imposed on the Islamic Republic – “haven’t worked”. That’s a strange conclusion, because the sanctions haven’t even fully kicked in yet. Europe’s oil embargo and America’s effort to cut off Iran’s central bank come to fruition only in the summer.
It will take months after that to tie up loopholes, like Iranian efforts to blend their oil with others’, and months again for these policies to work through Iran’s already-ailing economy. So, all in all, Obama has very likely bought himself six or seven months – an arrangement possibly lubricated by the sale of bunker-busting bombs to Israel.
The other context for this lingering foreign policy drama is domestic: it’s playing out against the politically hyper-sensitive background of the U.S. 2012 President campaign. If there is an Israeli military action it’s bound to have an impact on the vote — but analysts differ on how (sometimes due to their own political preference).