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Stronger red lines for Iran could prevent conflict, Netanyahu says

By Jeff Abramowitz –

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Monday on the world to lay down a red line for Iran, saying the clearer the line, the less the chance of bloodshed — in a possible pullback from hints that Israel may attack the Islamic republic.

He told a group of U.S. and Israeli military veterans that Iran was “galloping ahead” with its nuclear program because it did not see clear red lines, “or the necessary resolve and determination from the international community.”

“The clearer the red line drawn before Iran by the international community, the smaller the chance of a conflict,” a statement from his office quoted him as saying.

The premier’s comments came hours after the New York Times reported that the Obama administration is pushing ahead with a range of steps “short of war,” which it hopes will head off an Israeli military attack on Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

Washington is also mulling new declarations by President Barack Obama about what might bring about American military action, as well as covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected, the Times reported.

Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, pointing to repeated statements by Iranian leaders that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.

Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking to build a nuclear weapon and insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Speculation has grown in recent weeks that an Israeli attack on Iran could take place in the coming weeks, before the U.S. presidential election in November.

A unilateral Israeli strike is opposed by Washington and the international community, and Israeli officials have admitted that at best, it could only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not destroy it totally.

But Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, are understood to be in favor of launching an attack, believing that international sanctions and pressure on Tehran are not succeeding in convincing Iran to shut down its nuclear activities.

Netanyahu is likely to meet Obama in New York at the end of the month when he attends the UN General Assembly session, and some analysts have raised the possibility that an agreement between the two leaders in New York could prevent an Israeli strike.

Israel’s Channel 2 Television speculated Monday night that the New York Times report, and Netanyahu’s later comments, indicate that the United States and Israel may be seeking a formula which would prevent an Israeli attack, while leaving Iran in no doubt of the cost of continuing its nuclear program.

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