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The Case for a Red Line

JINSA Report #: 

September 28, 2012

In his address to the UN General Assembly yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the world that all attempts to persuade Iran to halt its progress toward developing a nuclear weapon have failed. He urged the world to impose a strict red line on Iran. "At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program."

The prime minister made a strong case that red lines prevent war and that when they were not declared, aggression was invited. He listed historical examples to illustrate the point, but it was his observation of recent events that should cause those who doubt their efficacy to pay closer attention. “Clear red lines have also worked with Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off,” he said.

JINSA has long argued that the United States must affirm the credibility of a military threat against Iran's nuclear weapons program. As necessary and important as other tools of statecraft - such as economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts – are, those who speak against military action undermine all other strategies.

In support of a clear red line to dissuade Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, JINSA continues to encourage the U.S. government to, "Prepare to use military force at the optimal time regardless of elections or other political considerations, recognizing that the credible threat of force is the best insurance that measures short of war will have the greatest opportunity for success."

Prime Minister Netanyahu offered his country’s belief that the red line should be drawn before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment. "Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon."

Dismissing those who contend that it would be acceptable to allow Iran to amass the necessary components for a nuclear bomb because intelligence agencies would know when Iran had made the decision to assemble the weapon, Netanyahu said that no intelligence organization is infallible. “For over two years, our intelligence agencies didn't know that Iran was building a huge nuclear enrichment plant under a mountain. Do we want to risk the security of the world on the assumption that we would find in time a small workshop in a country half the size of Europe?”

"The relevant question,” the prime minister declared, “is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb."

The President must decide where to draw a red line for Iran. And an American red line must be declared without further delay.

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