Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran could develop nuclear bomb in months

Netanyahu: Iran Could Develop Bomb in Months

Netanyahu: Iran Could Develop Bomb in Months

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Sept. 16 2012 1:54 PM

Israeli PM Netanyahu Warns Iran Is Months Away From Developing Nuclear Bomb

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Photo by Menahem Kahana - Pool/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an emotional appeal to the American public Sunday, as part of his continuing effort at pressuring President Obama to set a clear “red line” for Tehran and its nuclear program. Iran is now “in the red zone” of building nuclear weapons and the United States must “place that red line before them now, before it’s too late,” Netanyahu told NBC. Adding urgency to the unusually public appeal to the White House, Netanyahu said that “in six months or so they’ll be 90 percent of the way there,” reports Reuters. (Video of the interview after the jump.)

Meanwhile, the top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned that “nothing will remain” of Israel if it decides to take military action against Tehran, adding that the country might decide to hit U.S. bases in the Middle East and close the Strait of Hormuz. Although Iranian leaders seem to constantly promise Israel’s destruction, Gen. Mohammad Al Jafari’s comments were unusually detailed and comprehensive, as if to send a message that Tehran has a plan in place and is not just spouting rhetoric, reports the Associated Press.

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Netanyahu insisted that his increasing pressure on the White House has nothing to do with the U.S. presidential election, notes USA Today. "What's guiding me, contrary to what I have read in the United States, is not the American political calendar," Netanyahu told CNN. "It's the Iranian nuclear calendar." The Israeli leader said that he knows some “are trying to draw me into the American election, and I’m not going to do that.”

There were several indications throughout Netanyahu’s Sunday talk show appearances that his intended audience was more the American people than the White House. First he made a connection between Iran and the recent attacks on U.S. embassies.  Netanyahu told NBC’s David Gregory Iran is guided by “unbelievable fanaticism,” adding that “it’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?” He also used a football metaphor, displaying his familiarity with American culture, notes the New York Times. “You know, they’re in the last 20 yards, and you can’t let them cross that goal line,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader insists that setting a “red line” would make an attack less likely because “once the Iranians understand that there’s a line that they can’t cross, they’re not likely to cross it.” Yet Netanyahu didn’t specify what the red line should be, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seemed to mock the whole notion last week, points out Bloomberg. Leaders “don’t have, you know, a bunch of little red lines that determine their decisions,” Panetta said.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.