Dennis Ross: Obama has drawn a red line on Iran
Dennis Ross, who was in charge of the Iran file at the Obama White House during President Obama's first term, claims that the President has drawn a red line
on how far he is willing to let Iran go in developing nuclear weapons.
What is a “breakout capacity?” As Ross points out, Obama himself defined it
in the third presidential debate in October. It “means that we would
not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program,” the
president said. In other words, Iran would have acquired enough nuclear
infrastructure and stockpiles of medium-enriched uranium that it could
manufacture a bomb in a matter of a few weeks — before it could be
detected by Western intelligence agencies or international inspectors.
“That clock is ticking,” Obama said.
Ross contends that statement was deliberate, and reflected a carefully-drawn red line.
In his first year in office, Obama presided over an internal debate
about whether an Iranian nuclear bomb could be tolerated and contained;
he eventually decided that it must be prevented, by military action if
necessary. Before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu last March, Obama publicly said “it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
A further series of public and private exchanges with Netanyahu
this fall, Ross says, prompted Obama to define “breakout capacity” — a
step that may have contributed to Israel’s decision to postpone military action of its own.
Netanyahu has signaled
that Israel now sees the middle of 2013 as the time when Iran may
acquire enough medium-enriched uranium to cross the “breakout” line.
Ross puts it this way: “By the end of 2013, if nothing changes, you
won’t know if they will move very quickly and present us with a fait
It’s hard to imagine Obama explaining to the nation
that another Middle East war is necessary because Iran’s uranium
stockpile, which has been slowly accumulating for years, has grown a few
kilograms too large. But that’s not the scenario Ross envisages. He
says Obama will likely first present Khamenei with a final offer,
allowing Iran a civil nuclear power program under tight restrictions.
“He will make some unmistakeable demonstration that he is going the
extra mile,” Ross says.
There's one small catch: Iran is not convinced that Obama is willing to take military action.
For the moment, Ross says, the Iranians “are not convinced we are
prepared to use force.” Consequently, he says, “at this point I would
still put the prospects for diplomacy at less than 50-50.” And: “If by
the end of 2013 diplomacy hasn’t worked, the prospects for use of force
become quite high.”
What could go wrong?
Labels: Ayatollah Ali Khameni, Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Iranian nuclear threat