WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his campaign on Sunday to get President Obama to take a harder line toward Iran over its nuclear program.
Netanyahu, appearing on Sunday TV news shows in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, again urged President Obama to draw a “red line” before Tehran.
“This is a matter of urgency,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” calling for the kind of action that he said President John F. Kennedy took with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis.
“President Obama has said that he is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” the Israeli leader said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If you’re determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it means you’ll act before they get nuclear weapons.”
The administration, which is using economic sanctions in an effort to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program, has resisted setting a specific line that Iran may not cross.
“We are committed – and president Obama is committed – to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told “Meet the Press.”
While Netanyahu wants the U.S. to announce it will stop Iran’s nuclear program at some specific point before Iran obtains the ability to make a bomb, the Obama administration has said simply it will not allow Iran to have a bomb.
Obama is committed to exhausting diplomatic and economic means “while there is still time,” Rice said, assuring that the administration has taken “no option off the table,” including military action.
But Netanyahu, increasingly worried about the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, said it was important to act “before it’s too late.”
Asked by David Gregory of “Meet the Press” if “as a prime minister of Israel, has Iran crossed your red line?,” Netanyahu said Iran was in a “red zone.”
“Well, the way I would say it, David, is they’re in the red zone,” Netanyahu said. “You know, they’re in the last 20 yards. And you can’t let them cross that goal line. You can’t let them score a touchdown. Because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences, for the peace and security of us all, of the world, really.”
The prime minister said “They’re moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so, they will be 90% of the way there,” he said.
Netanyahu said that setting a red line now would reduce the chances for military action, noting that when Kennedy set a red line in the Cuban missile crisis, “it actually pushed war back.”
“Once the Iranians understand that there’s a line they can’t cross, they’re not likely to cross it,” he said.
While making his comments in the midst of a presidential campaign, Netanyahu said he would not be drawn into the U.S. presidential campaign.
“What’s guiding my statements is not the American political calendar, but the Iranian nuclear calendar,” he said.
Netanyahu last week assailed the administration for refusing to issue a more specific ultimatum to Iran over the nuclear program, saying that those who refuse to do so “don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” a reference to U.S. pressure on Israel not to conduct a military strike on Iran aimed at its nuclear program.
Netanyahu also used the anti-American demonstrations across the Muslim world last week to make his case.
“Because Iran, with nuclear weapons, would mean that the kind of fanaticism that you see storming your embassies would have a nuclear weapon. Don’t let these fanatics have nuclear weapons,” he said.