President Obama has rightly resisted demands from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to draw a red line that Iran cannot cross without incurring an American military response.
The prime minister injected himself into the presidential campaign with a call for the White House to set clear limits on how far Iran will be allowed to take its nuclear activities before provoking a strike against Tehrans nuclear facilities. Israel has frequently signaled its willingness to attack Irans nuclear sites to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon that could be turned against Israel. The Obama administration has relied on diplomacy rather than open military threats, although it has not ruled out military action. That is not enough for Israel.
Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran dont have a moral right to place a red light before Israel, Mr. Netanyahu said.
The two countries reject Irans claim that its nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes. Israel rejects reliance on international sanctions that have failed to halt Irans nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has a uranium stockpile that with further enrichment could be used to develop five or six nuclear weapons, although the Obama administration believes Iran has not yet made the decision to do so.
A State Department spokeswoman said that it is not useful to draw lines or set deadlines for Tehran. She joined a White House official in repeating U.S. policy that Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.
However, setting hard-and-fast limits or deadlines could tie the hands of this or a future administration and leave little room for alternative responses more suitable to a specific Iranian provocation.