Israel-U.S. relations strained as Netanyahu urges 'red line' for Iran
Published Tuesday, September 11, 2012 8:15AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 11, 2012 11:23PM EDT
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the United States Tuesday over what he views as a reluctance to decisively act against Iran’s nuclear program, worsening already rocky relations between the two nations.
In a message aimed at the White House, Netanyahu confronted Washington about what factors would provoke a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran maintains the facilities are for peaceful purposes, but Israel says Iran is stockpiling enriched uranium to build nuclear weapons.
“The world tells Israel, 'Wait. There's still time,'" Netanyahu said Tuesday. "And I say: 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Later Tuesday, the White House sought to dismiss reports of a rift between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
It said in a statement that the two leaders spoke for an hour and agreed to continue “close consultations” about the situation in Iran.
Israel has always maintained that a nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat to the Jewish state, as Tehran has persistently called for Israel’s destruction.
Netanyahu’s words came the same day as a news report that lends credence to allegations that Iran is running a nuclear weapons program.
The report quoted unnamed diplomats as saying that the UN atomic agency has intelligence suggesting that Iran has advanced its nuclear work.
Diplomats interviewed by the Associated Press alleged that Iran has moved closer to the ability to build a nuclear weapon, expanding its research on the potential capabilities of an atomic warhead.
The intelligence comes from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries and was conducted within the past three years, AP reported.
The United States has not heeded Netanyahu’s calls and has said it wants to dissuade Iran from its nuclear work through diplomacy.
The disagreement over how to deal with Iran has boiled over in recent weeks.
Earlier Tuesday, reports said Obama had rejected a meeting with Netanyahu when the prime minister attends the UN General Assembly this month in New York. By Tuesday evening, the White House denied the reports, saying no such plan had been made or rejected.
Earlier this week U.S. State Dpeartment spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “it is not useful” to set deadlines or outline “red lines.” She also stressed that U.S. President Barack Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Canada will ‘work internationally’ to pressure Iran: MacKay
Meanwhile, Canada’s defence minister says Ottawa will continue pressuring Iran for a “change in attitude,” while unidentified diplomats make substantial claims about the country’s nuclear program.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay reiterated that Canada’s decision to sever ties with Iran was made “after a great deal of contemplation.”
"Not the least of which is the threat Iran that has posed to global security, their human rights record, their comments toward Israel,” he said.
Canada closed its embassy in Tehran last week and expelled Canadian diplomats in Ottawa, citing increasing safety concerns and disagreements related to foreign policy.
Without a direct diplomatic channel to Iran, MacKay said Canada is consulting with allies as it monitors developments from afar.
"We continue to plea to Iran for a change in their attitude, just as we continue to appeal internationally to the Syrian regime who have perpetrated awful violence on their own people," he said.
Dr. Jonathan Fine, a researcher from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, said other countries should heed Netanyahu’s call for tougher measures against Tehran.
Fine told CTV’s PowerPlay on Tuesday that diplomatic efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program via economic sanctions have largely failed.
The nation has become a very “dangerous combination of a dangerous ideology who is striving for nuclear weapons, which among other things wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,” he said.
Fine said the international community must act to stop the country from developing an atomic bomb.
“The question is how to go about this? How to prevent this?” said Fine. “We’re running out of time.”
He also applauded the tougher stance the Canadian government has taken on Iran.
“You can’t stay neutral for the rest of your life, you have to take a stand,” he said. “I think your government has taken a very brave, noble, firm stand regarding how to deal with this problem -- among other things your decision to disconnect the diplomatic relations with Iran, which I think is a formal declaration that these regimes cannot cross the line anymore.”
As the international debate about Iran heats up, many Iranian-Canadians are applauding Ottawa’s decision to diplomatically shut out the country. Some held a rally in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa on Monday, an event intended to praise Minister John Baird.
Minister MacKay, who married Iranian-born beauty queen-turned-social activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam in January, has offered assurances to those Canadians with personal ties to Iran.
"We will continue to work with and support the Iranian diaspora here in Canada and we stand with the Persian people who are oppressed by their own government," MacKay said.
Earlier this year, Afshin-Jam grabbed headlines with her call for Iranian embassies to be closed around the world, as a condemnation of the regime that overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979.
With files from The Associated Press