September 27, 2012
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told the United Nations on Thursday that Iran’s capability to enrich uranium must be stopped before next spring or early summer, arguing that by that time the country will be in a position to make a short, perhaps undetectable, sprint to manufacture its first nuclear weapon.
In his speech at the annual General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu dramatically illustrated his intention to shut down Iran’s nuclear programby drawing a red line through a cartoonish diagram of a bomb. But the substance of his speech suggested a softening of what had been a difficult dispute with the Obama administration on how to confront Iran over its nuclear program.
Only two weeks after that dispute broke into the open, Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday praised the warning Mr. Obama gave Iran in his own General Assembly speech on Tuesday.
“I very much appreciate the president’s position, as does everyone in my country,” he said. The Israeli leader’s speech also suggested that his deadline for a military strike was well past the American presidential election and into 2013 — perhaps as late as next summer.
Mr. Netanyahu said in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC that was broadcast on Sept. 16 that he believed Iran was six months from amassing most of the enriched uranium needed for a bomb. “You have to place that red line before them now,” he said. But his speech on Thursday was more explicit about his time frame for a military strike.
While such a strike seemed like a receding possibility in recent weeks, it had remained a possible “October surprise” that worried the White House and military planners.
Mr. Netanyahu’s softened tone may also have also reflected Israel’s reading of the American presidential polls, which have shown Mr. Obama’s lead widening somewhat since the prime minister’s harsh words in mid-September, when he said the United States had no “moral right” to hold back Israel from taking action against Iran because the Obama administration refused to set its own red line.