President Barack Obama rejected, during his phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, an appeal by Netanyahu to spell out a specific “red line” that Iran could not cross in its nuclear program, a senior administration official has told The New York Times.
The official said this deepens the divide between the allies over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
According to the official, in the hour long telephone conversation on Tuesday night, Obama deflected Netanyahu’s proposal to make the size of Iran’s stockpile of close-to-bomb-grade uranium the threshold for a military strike by the United States against its nuclear facilities.
Obama, the official told The New York Times, repeated the assurances he gave to Netanyahu in March that the United States would not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon. The president was unwilling to agree on any specific action by Iran, like reaching a defined threshold on nuclear material, or failing to adhere to a deadline on negotiations, that would lead to American military action.
“We need some ability for the president to have decision-making room,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks, told The New York Times. “We have a red line, which is a nuclear weapon. We’re committed to that red line.”
Israeli officials, however, say this guarantee may not be enough for Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened with annihilation. Diplomatic talks, the Israelis say, have done nothing to slow Iran’s nuclear program nor have economic sanctions, though they have inflicted significant damage on the Iranian economy.
The telephone conversation came after a tense day between the sides. It began with comments by Netanyahu that the Obama administration had no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action on its own if it refused to put limits on Iran. It continued with reports that the White House had rebuffed a request by Netanyahu’s office for a meeting with Obama during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. The White House denied those reports, saying the two were simply not in New York at the same time.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)