NEW YORK (AP)—In his most detailed plea to date for global action against Iran's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it can build a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu flashed a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the UN General Assembly showing the progress Iran has made, saying it has already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.
Then he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate—the completion of the second stage and 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.
"By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage," he said. "From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel's destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state, and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.
On Thursday he presented his case to the world just why a nuclear-armed Iran would be a danger to many other countries as well. Casting the battle as one between modernity and the "medieval forces of radical Islam," Netanyahu said deterrence would not work against Iran as it had with the Soviet Union.
"Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose survival," he said. But "militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them."
Netanyahu thanked the U.S. and other governments that have imposed sanctions, which, he said, have hurt Iran's economy and curbed its oil exports but have not changed Tehran's intentions to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
"I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether," the Israeli prime minister said. "Red lines don't lead to war, red lines prevent war."
Netanyahu did not detail what should be done if his "red line" was crossed, but the insinuation was clear. In perhaps his final plea before Israel felt the need to take matters into its own hands, Netanyahu pounded away at the dangers posed by Iran.
"To understand what the world would be like with a nuclear-armed Iran, just imagine the world with a nuclear-armed al-Qaeda," he said. "Nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran."