Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concern over Iran’s weapons programs in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He appealed to the international community not to be fooled by Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani’s conciliatory statements. The prime minister accused Rouhani of being “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” continuing the development of nuclear weapons under the cover of diplomatic negotiations. In his most forceful statement, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel would “stand alone” if necessary.
The Prime Minister’s statement came after a visit Monday to the White House, where he urged President Obama to maintain a military threat and uphold strict economic sanctions against Iran. Mr. Obama reassured him that the U.S. would use force if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. At the same time, the President indicated expressed hope for resolving the issue diplomatically.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday October 1, 2013 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (Photo: AP)
Obama believes that there are grounds for a resolution — the U.S. and Iran engaged vigorous diplomatic exchanges during the week prior to Netanyahu’s address. The talks included a meeting that brought together Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Obama held a 15 minute phone call with Rouhani on Friday, notably marking the first direct conversation between American and Iran’s leaders since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Obama concluded after the call that a solution between the countries is possible, but Rouhani boasted in Teheran that he had refused five earlier calls before acceding to the White House’s request and said the U.S. and Iranian relations are dominated by a “very dark atmosphere.
Despite the American overtures, the Obama administration faces many challenges in maintaining diplomacy with Iran. The U.S. has been seeking Israel’s support, and Prime Minister Netanyahu supported the principle of diplomacy in his speech, but firmly addressed the dangers in talking while the centrifuges continue to enrich uranium. According to an Obama administration official, these challenges to diplomatic efforts were anticipated, as all sides must navigate their domestic politics.