As President Barack Obama prepared for a mid-March trip to Israel—his first visit to the key U.S. ally as president—Israeli officials prepared to underscore a warning they’ve been sounding for months: The threat of a nuclear Iran is reaching a critical stage.
Ahead of the president’s Middle East trip, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told USA Today there was still time for sanctions against Iran to work, “but not much time.” He added that “the window is closing” for diplomacy and the “red line” for stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon could come as early as this summer. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu memorably drew a literal red line on a chart depicting a bomb last fall at the UN to dramatize the growing threat to Israel from Iran’s nuclear program.
While Obama has been scheduled to deliver a major speech in Jerusalem during the visit, it’s unclear how the president will address Israel’s growing alarm over Iran.
Newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry offered notably scant attention to Iran during his first major speech as secretary. In a 50-minute speech at the University of Virginia on Feb. 20, Kerry said the United States would work to ensure Iran “never obtains a weapon that would endanger our allies and our interests,” but he didn’t outline how U.S. policy would secure such an outcome. The secretary highlighted climate change as a major foreign policy issue, echoing a speech he delivered last August when he said climate change was “as dangerous” as a nuclear Iran.
Kerry’s first solo trip to the Middle East as a member of the president’s cabinet didn’t include a stop in Israel. (The secretary was scheduled to join Obama during his March visit there.) But Kerry did make a stop in Saudi Arabia for an unscheduled meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.