The Norman Transcript

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September 30, 2013

Netanyahu warns about Iran

(Continued)

JERUSALEM —

Similarly, in his speech at the U.N., “he will make it very clear that Israel and the world at large should continue to be on guard,” he said.

Over the years, Israel has issued shifting assessments of how close Iran is to producing a weapon. Last year, Netanyahu presented a cartoon diagram to the U.N. showing that Iran would enter the final phase of weapons production by mid-2013. Israel has since backed off that assessment.

Netanyahu’s intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, said international pressure forced Iran to slow production.

While American officials are well aware of Israel’s concerns, they say there are no plans to reverse the latest diplomatic push.

Two senior Obama administration officials said that the U.S. expects Israel to be skeptical about Iran’s overture, and that the U.S. is similarly skeptical.

Obama will try to convince Netanyahu that the U.S. won’t consider lifting sanctions until Iran takes concrete actions to show it is serious about a verifiable, transparent agreement, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

Obama will also seek to assure his Israeli counterpart that if the U.S. reaches a deal with Iran, it will ultimately advance Israel’s security interests by resolving the nuclear issue without the need for military intervention.

Obama’s bottom line remains that Iran can’t be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, the officials said.

Israel, though, wants the U.S. to establish clear “red lines” to prevent Iran from pressing forward with its nuclear program and moving toward threshold status — having the capability to build a nuclear weapon without actually possessing one. That scenario is unacceptable to Israel.

Netanyahu has laid out four demands: that Iran stop enriching uranium; that its stockpiles of enriched uranium be removed from the country; that a fortified underground enrichment facility be closed; and that Iran not make plutonium, another possible path toward nuclear weapons.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, predicted a “very difficult conversation” on Monday.

The Americans “like Rouhani. They think he represents a new policy, a new approach and therefore should be given at least a chance. Netanyahu’s strategy is to say that this whole thing is a big hoax,” Gilboa said. “There are no buyers for his message.”

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