WASHINGTON -- Israel's prime minister told a massive pro-Israel gathering Monday night that time was running out to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, though he stopped short of calling for immediate action that would directly clash with President Barack Obama's diplomatic strategy.
"For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy -- it hasn't worked," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gala. "For six years the international community has applied sanctions -- that hasn't worked either. Israel has patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work, we've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer."
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu met with Obama in a terse and closely watched meeting that many hoped would offer clues on the possibility of military action against Iran. Obama has repeatedly said that diplomacy and sanctions should be given more time to work, while the Israelis have pressed the urgency of preventing Iran from acquiring even the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
“We do believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue,” Obama said in brief remarks to reporters after the meeting.
The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Monday that Netanyahu assured Obama during the meeting that he had not decided whether to go to war with Iran. But if the prime minister left the meeting persuaded by Obama's view, he showed little hint of it Monday night.
In his American Israel Public Affairs Committee speech, heard by more than 13,000 attendees at the gala, including most of the U.S. Congress and much of the Obama administration's top Middle East staff, Netanyahu began with warm remarks for the president, who he has not been known to have a comfortable relationship.
But after pronouncing that "Israel has exactly the same policy" as the U.S. when it comes to a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu laid out ways his perspective differs from Obama's.
"Amazingly, some refuse to acknowledge that Iran's goal is to develop nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said. "They say, Iran is cruel, but it's not crazy. It's detestable, but it's defer-able. Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries that the world's most dangerous regimes will not use the world's most dangerous weapons, and I promise you that as the prime minister of Israel, I will never gamble with the security of the State of Israel."
"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? It is a duck -- but this duck is a nuclear duck," Netanyahu joked at one point, referring to the hints that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, something the U.S. intelligence community does not believe Iran has decided to do.
The prime minister's occasional jocularity was interpreted by some as a sign that Netanyahu was not immediately planning military strikes against Iran.
But he also reached into raw history, digging up old letters between American military officials and leaders of the Jewish community from World War II, in which Americans doubted the utility of air strikes against the concentration camp in Auschwitz. He concluded that Israel would not allow its security to be dictated by American interests or desires.
"Never again will the Jewish people be supplicants. Never again," Netanyahu said. "We deeply appreciate the alliance between our two nations, but when it comes to Israel's survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate."
When Obama addressed the conference on Sunday, he emphasized the diplomatic effort, but also made clear he would not hesitate to take military action if necessary.
"I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say," Obama said. "That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions, and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."
Senior Obama administration officials who spoke to reporters after Monday's meeting on background and on the condition of not being named, highlighted the enormous costs and consequences associated with a military effort.
The officials also emphasized that there is still plenty of time to allow diplomatic solutions, or to make decisions about military options. Were Iranian leaders to try to build a nuclear weapon, it would take about a year to complete, American officials said.
On these points, Netanyahu on Monday seemed to disagree with Obama, even if he did not characterize his perspective that way.
"There's been so much talk about the cost of stopping Iran," Netanyahu said. "I think it's time to start talking about the cost of not stopping Iran."
Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.
BEFORE YOU GO
06/19/2012 9:05 AM EDT
Moscow talks make little progress.
MOSCOW — A top Russian official made a last-ditch effort to save talks over Iran's nuclear program from collapse Tuesday, holding a meeting with Iran's chief envoy.
But diplomats said the negotiations remained deadlocked as they went into a second and possibly final day, with the presidents of the United States and Russia urging Iran to agree to curb nuclear activities that could be turned toward arming warheads and Iran demanding a lifting of sanctions crippling its oil industry.
Read more on HuffPost World.
06/18/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Iran, West start nuclear talks.
MOSCOW, June 18 (Reuters) - World powers began two days of talks with Iran on Monday to try to end a decade-long stand-off over Tehran's nuclear programme and avert the threat of a new war in the Middle East.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran would be prepared to stop enriching uranium to a higher level - a process that could be used to make nuclear arms - if the six powers agreed to meet its needs for the fuel. But it is not clear how much influence Ahmadinejad has over the negotiations and whether his remarks reflect Tehran's position in the talks.
Read the full article on HuffPost World.
06/13/2012 6:50 PM EDT
All proposals on the table.
TEHRAN, Iran -- Proposals from both Iran and the group of six world powers will be on the table for nuclear talks in Moscow next week, not just the West's demand to halt Iran's highest level uranium enrichment, Iran's top negotiator said Wednesday.
Read more on HuffPost World.
06/08/2012 10:20 AM EDT
New round of nuke talks.
VIENNA, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog began a new round of talks on Friday in an attempt to seal a deal to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected atomic weapon research in the Islamic state.
Read the full story on HuffPost World.
06/08/2012 7:33 AM EDT
Ahmadinejad: 'Iran won't build nuclear bomb.'
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's president says Iran has no intention of building nuclear weapons, but fear would not deter it if it decided to make them.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments suggest a toughening of Iran's position ahead of June 18-19 talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany want Iran to shut down its highest level uranium enrichment facilities. Ahmadinejad's remarks suggest Iran would refuse.
Ahmadinejad made the comments during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday in China. His remarks were posted on his website.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment. (AP)
06/06/2012 12:03 PM EDT
Smuggling of epic proportions
The BBC reports that $20 billion worth of goods -- the equivalent of nearly 30 percent of the country’s annual official trade -- are smuggled into Iran's borders every year.
Watch the full story here.
06/03/2012 3:11 PM EDT
Clinton draws no conclusions
STOCKHOLM — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's not drawing any conclusions about what effect the latest hash words from Iran might have on the potential success of upcoming nuclear talks in Moscow.
05/31/2012 2:08 PM EDT
Iran's Forrest Gump.
Iranian-born Reza Baluchi is a regular Forrest Gump. Ten years ago he ran away from Iran. He’s run across the United States twice since then, once around its perimeter. Yet now he’s planning his biggest journey of all, CNN reports, a run around the world that will take him through his home country once more.
It started when he ran away from home at the age of eight. Later he ran away from his homeland, Iran, and spent seven years on a bicycle, pedaling 49,700 miles across 55 countries.
In 2002, he reached America. He now lives in a tent in Death Valley.
It's been nearly 10 years since Reza Baluchi escaped from Iran. He has run across the United States twice and around its perimeter once. He sets out on every journey with the same mission: to spread a message of world peace.
Read the full story here.
05/31/2012 2:01 PM EDT
Jackson Pollock painting returned.
After being seized by Iranian customs over a monetary dispute, a painting by Jackson Pollock has been returned to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran, the BBC reports.
Mural on Indian Red Ground was seized by the country's customs service on 11 May after being on loan to Japan.
The service said it confiscated the work over money owed by the Ministry of Culture, which runs the museum.
The ministry said the painting had been returned "after negotiations.”
Read the full story here.
05/29/2012 7:24 PM EDT
Dissident blogger in Iran.
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a 26-year-old Iranian dissident blogger, has spent the past 13 months in solitary confinement at Iran’s Evin Prison, BBC Persian reports.
International Business Times reports that Maleki has written a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, including the following passage:
“Leader of the Islamic Republic,
We must admit that judicial independence is not possible with the existence of so many intelligence and security entities.
We must admit that the society is facing a great explosion, and the current superficial peace is basically due to oppression, intimidation, imprisonments and suppression.
We must know that the thoughts of freedom seekers cannot be enchained! Ideologies cannot be tortured! Truth cannot be suppressed!”