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You're reading: Netanyahu brings fears about Iran to UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make his case against Iran before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, arguing that time is quickly running out to stop the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear power and the threat of force must be seriously considered.

His
demand that President Barack Obama declare “red lines” that would
trigger an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has been
rejected in Washington and sparked a public rift between the two
leaders.

Netanyahu claims international diplomatic efforts and
economic sanctions have failed. His time at the U.N. podium gives him an
opportunity in front of the international community to press his case
once again, perhaps in a final plea before Israel takes matters into its
own hands. Israeli leaders have issued a series of warnings in recent
weeks suggesting that if Iran’s uranium enrichment program continues it
may soon stage a unilateral military strike, flouting even American
wishes.

The Obama administration has urgently sought to hold off
Israeli military action, which would likely result in the U.S. being
pulled into a conflict and cause regionwide mayhem on the eve of
American elections.

Such an attack would almost certainly lead to
retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on Israeli population centers. On
Sunday, Iranian leaders suggested they may strike Israeli preemptively
if they feel threatened.

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to
be an existential threat, citing Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction,
Iran’s development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and
its support for hostile Arab militant groups.

Also Thursday, on
the sidelines of the General Assembly, key figures will gather for a
Friends of Yemen meeting that will be co-chaired by British Foreign
Secretary William Hague, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Ministe Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Abdullah.
The meeting will produce a communique aimed at generating support for
Hadi, who took office in February after more than a year of political
turmoil and is now trying to steer his country’s democratic transition.

Later, political directors from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will be meeting on the Iranian nuclear issue.

A
few hours before Netanyahu flew to the U.S., Iranian leader Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, known for past fiery denunciations of the United States and
Israel, spoke at length about his vision for a “new world order” during
his speech at the U.N. His speech on Wednesday happened to fall on Yom
Kippur, the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar, devoted to fasting,
prayer and introspection.

Netanyahu issued a statement condemning
the speech soon after the fast ended. “On the day when we pray to be
inscribed in the book of life a platform was given to a dictatorial
regime that strives, at every opportunity, to sentence us to death,”
Netanyahu said. ‘In my remarks to the UN General Assembly, they will
hear my response. History has proven that those who have wanted to wipe
us off the map have failed, as the Jewish People have overcome all
obstacles,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu has said he is going to the
U.N. to draw attention to what Israel perceives as the Iranian threat.
Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, he said at the U.N. he would
“reiterate that the most dangerous country in the world must not be
allowed to arm itself with the most dangerous weapon in the world.” He
did not elaborate.

On Tuesday, the Maariv daily reported that
Netanyahu would present his own “red lines” to the world body. It said
Netanyahu would spell out what limits the international community should
set for Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power and how long
that will take. Netanyahu has never laid out these limits precisely.

Iran
insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes but Israel, the
U.S. and other Western allies reject the claim. Four rounds of U.N.
sanctions have already been placed on Iran.

A U.N. report last
month only reinforced Israeli fears, finding that Iran has moved more of
its uranium enrichment activities into fortified bunkers deep
underground where they are impervious to air attack. Enrichment is a key
activity in building a bomb, though it has other uses as well, such as
producing medical isotopes.

While Israel is convinced that Iran is
pursuing a nuclear weapon, American officials believe Iran has not yet
made a final decision to take the plunge, even as it develops much of
the infrastructure needed to do so.

Obama has repeatedly said he
will not allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons and has said the U.S. would
be prepared to use force as a last resort. But in an interview Sunday
with “60 Minutes” he also vowed to “block out any noise that’s out
there” on the issue, in an apparent swipe at Netanyahu.

Israel’s
timeline for military action is shorter than that of the United States,
which has far more powerful bunker-busting bombs at its disposal, and
there is great suspicion in Israel over whether in the moment of truth
Obama will follow through on his pledge.

Netanyahu has a history of fiery speeches at the U.N. General Assembly.

In
2009, he waved the blueprints for the Nazi death camp Aushwitz and
invoked the memory of his own family members murdered by the Nazis while
making his case against Iran’s Holocaust denial and threats to destroy
Israel.

To those who remained at the General Assembly while
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke, he chastised: “Have you no
shame? Have you no decency?”

And last year, he warned the world about the threat of militant Islam and Iran.

During
his three-day visit, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton,
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who recently expelled the
Iranian ambassador from his country — and U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton. He is not scheduled to meet Obama.

Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas is also set to speak in New York. The
Palestinian leader is expected to ask the United Nation’s General
Assembly to vote on recognizing Palestine as an observer state in
November.

Abbas has said he wants to put off a vote until after
U.S. elections to avoid entangling the Palestinian statehood bid in
presidential politics.

“I’m not in the U.N. to delegitimize Israel
but to present the two state solution,” Abbas told U.S. Jewish
community leaders last week at a meeting by the S. Daniel Abraham Center
for Middle East Peace. “I want to have Palestine as a nonmember state.”
said.

Abbas’ relatively low-key approach is in contrast to last
year when he was at center stage with his attempt to win full membership
in the world body. That application failed to win enough support in the
Security Council.

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