Israeli leaders literally draws a “red line” before world leaders at U.N. (photo credit: Chang W. Lee/New York Times)

UPDATED WITH DETAILS FROM FULL SPEECH TEXT:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told world leaders Thursday that Iran is 70 percent of the way to building its first nuclear bomb, and could significantly complete its work by spring 2013, or by summer at the latest. 

In a powerful, sobering address to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu said it was getting “very late” to stop “Iran’s apocalyptic leaders” from getting The Bomb. He called for the world to impose a clear “red line” on Iran, stating precisely at what point Iran’s actions would provoke a military response. He said he did not have confidence that even the best intelligence agencies would know exactly when Iran had built its first nuclear warhead. The goal, he insisted, has to be to stop Iran from enriching enough uranium to be able to build its first warhead. Time to accomplish that, he made clear, is running out fast.

Netanyahu’s reference to Iran’s “apocalyptic leaders” was a direct response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the U.N. on Wednesday in which he called for the end of the “hegemonic” powers of the United States and Israel — whom he described as “the uncivilized Zionists” — and said the world would ”soon” see new “global management” by the Twelfth Imam, also known as the “Mahdi,” and his deputy, Jesus Christ.

As Netanyahu told the world leaders: “Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That’s not just what they believe. That’s what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.”

Does this mean war is imminent? It depends, I guess, on one’s definition of imminent. Israel may or may not launch an “October Surprise.” But by indicating Iran could be dangerously close to having the Bomb by next spring, it does appear as if the Israeli leader was laying down what could be a final marker before he orders his forces into battle.

“The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb,” said the Israeli Prime Minister. “The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb.”

Reports the New York Times: “Netanyahu of Israel told the United Nations on Thursday that he believes Iran’s ability to make an atomic weapon will be irreversible by next spring or summer — a far more specific time frame than he had asserted before — and he argued that a “clear red line” must be drawn to warn the Iranians they must halt their nuclear fuel enrichment before then.”

To read the full text of the speech, please click here.

See video clips from the speech here. Read key excerpts of the speech from ABC News:

  • The world must immediately draw a clear “red line” to prevent Iran from completing a nuclear weapon as soon as next spring, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned today in an address before the United Nations. “To be credible a red line must be drawn first and foremost in one vital part of their program, on Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium,” said Netanyahu, who considers a nuclear Iran a threat to his country.
  • The premier said it was already getting “very late” to stop Iran, a regime that he said backs terrorist organizations and attacks around the globe.
  • Using a magic marker to literally draw a red line on a diagram of a bomb, Netanyahu said Iran was already 70 percent of the way towards developing a bomb. He said the international community must stop Iran before it could complete another 20 percent, a process of creating medium enriched uranium. The final 10 percent could be completed in a few short weeks, he said.  Once the uranium enrichment was completed, he said, Iran could easily assemble the necessary fuse in a secret location no bigger than a classroom.
  • The international community, he said, knows where to find the enrichment centers, and Iran cannot be given enough time to assemble the bomb in secret.
  • “Iran is 70 percent of the way there and … well into the second stage. By next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” Netanyahu said. “From there it is only a few more weeks before they have enriched enough for a bomb.”
  • “Some say a nuclear armed Iran would stabilize the Middle East. Yeah right. That’s like a saying a nuclear armed Al Qaeda would usher in world peace,” he said.
  • Netanyahu compared the situation to Europe’s unwillingness to confront Germany’s Hitler in his early aggressive moves. “Those who opposed that fanaticism waited too long to act,” he said.

The latest Reuters story adds these important facts:

  • “A red line should be drawn right here, before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb, before Iran gets to a point where it is a few months or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon,” he said.
  • “Each day that point is getting closer, and that is why I speak today with such a sense of urgency and that is why everyone should have a sense of urgency….
  • Netanyahu added that “the red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.”
  • Netanyahu was referring to Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, a level it says is required for medical isotopes but which also brings it close to bomb-fuel grade.
  • An August report by U.N. inspectors said Iran has stockpiled 91.4 kg of the 20 percent material.
  • According to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, around 25 kg of uranium enriched to a 90 percent purity level would be needed for a single nuclear weapon.


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