Israel's "Red Lines" for U.S. talks with Iran were disclosed in Ha'aretz today.
Israel to present Clinton with 'red lines' on talks with Iran
Ha'aretz March 3, 2009
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel plans to present U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a series of "red lines" it wants Washington to incorporate into its planned dialogue with Tehran about Iran's nuclear program.
Clinton arrived in Israel last night and will meet with various Israeli officials Tuesday.
The red lines were jointly formulated by the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment, and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has been briefed on them. The document recommends that Israel adopt a positive attitude toward the planned U.S.-Iranian dialogue, but proposes ways of minimizing what Israeli officials see as the risks inherent in such talks. Its main points are as follows:
1. Any dialogue must be both preceded by and accompanied by harsher sanctions against Iran, both within the framework of the UN Security Council and outside it. Otherwise, the talks are liable to be perceived by both Iran and the international community as acceptance of Iran's nuclear program.
2. Before the dialogue begins, the U.S. should formulate an action plan with Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain regarding what to do if the talks fail. Specifically, there must be an agreement that the talks' failure will prompt extremely harsh international sanctions on Iran.
3. A time limit must be set for the talks, to prevent Iran from merely buying time to complete its nuclear development. The talks should also be defined as a "one-time opportunity" for Tehran.
4. Timing is critical, and the U.S. should consider whether it makes sense to begin the talks before Iran's presidential election in June.
The red lines were approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a meeting with senior defense officials last week. All three plan to raise them at their respective meetings with Clinton Tuesday.
Within the defense establishment, the majority view, led by chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin, is that Israel should regard the U.S.-Iranian dialogue as an opportunity rather than a threat. The minority view, spearheaded by the Defense Ministry, is that the dialogue entails grave risks.
Israel's estimate of the progress of Iran's nuclear program differs from both that of the International Atomic Energy Agency and that expressed on Sunday by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Two weeks ago, the IAEA reported a significant increase in Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium since November, to 1,010 kilograms - enough, some physicists say, for conversion into high-enriched uranium for one bomb. And Mullen told CNN on Sunday that he believes Iran already has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear device.
Israel's assessment, in contrast, is that Iran does not yet have enough uranium for a bomb; it thinks Iran will reach this point only in late 2009 or early 2010.
Nevertheless, Olmert told Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon on Sunday that the "timetable for Iran's nuclear program is pressing, and therefore, determined action is necessary. Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran."
One question to which Israeli officials will be seeking an answer from Clinton is what role Dennis Ross, the secretary of state's newly appointed special advisor for the Gulf and Southeast Asia, will actually play. It is widely expected that Ross will focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, but this has not been stated officially.
In addition to Olmert, Livni and Barak, Clinton will meet Tuesday with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Wednesday, she will travel to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian officials.