Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and Shlomo Brom, a former high-ranking official in the Israeli army, were responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last month at the U.N. (and some on the American right), in which he called for the international community to set a clear “red line” on the Iranian nuclear program. Both Javedanfar and Brom spoke at a Center for American Progress event on the status of the U.S.-Israel cooperation on Iran.
Brom said that “red lines” are counterproductive, claiming that they “provoke the other party to try and check the limits of his maneuverability…so all they do usually is that they reach the red line and cross it a little bit and see what the direct action is.” In other words, he said, “you cause the other party to try to test you.” Brom also made the point that “red lines” typically tend to be anything but rigid as circumstances and “other considerations” can change. In the long run “red lines,” according to Brom, only serve to make the country that creates them “lose credibility” with the other party.
Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli expert, said that the importance of “red lines” is overblown and that President Obama has already stated that he doesn’t support a containment policy for Iran, ruling out the need to publicly discuss additional “red lines.” Besides, he said, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors currently in Iran would make the international community aware if the Iranians push to enrich uranium to higher purity needed for a bomb:
“It’s going to be very obvious. They will need that enriched uranium in Fordow to make a bomb and if they want to use it they are going to have to kick out the IAEA inspectors; and there we will all be aware that the Iranian regime has started making a bomb.”
To Javedanfar, the presence of inspectors and President Obama’s rejection of a containment strategy makes any criticism of the administration’s lack of “red lines” a moot point. Instead, Javedanfar says the focus should be elsewhere: “It would serve Israeli and U.S. interests more if we talked about Iran…instead of having this conversation and having diagrams being drawn in the U.N.,” adding that the Iranians are clearly “treading very carefully” and that, “red lines are important but cooperation is far more important.”
The Israeli experts’ assessments echoed that of Former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Air Force Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, who said recently that red-lines are counterproductive.
The Obama administration, along with its European allies, determine that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a threat and have implemented several rounds of crippling sanctions aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis. The sanctions have resulted in an estimated loss of $48 billion a year in oil revenues, or 10 percent of the economy and $133 million a day in oil money. One oil analyst told Bloomberg that sanctions have “been an unqualified success.” U.S., Israeli and U.N. officials have repeatedly pointed out that Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon.