US, Israel play down differences over Iran
As the presidential election approaches, the US and Israel are playing down any differences regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities, although defining any 'red line' remains elusive. In the Strait of Hormuz, the US is leading a major naval exercise aimed at Iran.
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"I'm always pleased and happy to have a conversation with President Obama," said Netanyahu. "We've had our discussions; our schedules on this visit didn't work out … but we continue to be in close consultations."
Romney has been critical of what he says is Obama’s insufficient toughness on Iran. But in fact, their positions on any red line are virtually the same – at least rhetorically.
"My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon," Romney told ABC News this week. "It is inappropriate for them to have the capacity to terrorize the world. Iran as a nuclear nation is unacceptable to the United States of America."
Similarly, Obama told Telemundo this week that he had "stated repeatedly, publicly, that … we're not going to accept Iran having a nuclear weapon."
The key question here is: At what point does Iran’s nuclear capability become “unacceptable?” It’s unclear from Romney’s and Obama’s comments, but much clearer from Netanyahu’s.
“In six months or so, they will be 90 percent of the way there,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “I think it’s important to place a red line before Iran, and I think that actually reduces the chance of a military conflict because, if they know there’s a point, a stage in the enrichment or other nuclear activities that they cannot cross because they face consequences, I think they’ll actually not cross it.”
As the diplomatic maneuvering over Iran – and its domestic political component – continued through the weekend, the US military was very much involved in the region.
The US is leading some two dozen countries in a major naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz.
The war games are the largest ever undertaken in the region, the British newspaper The Telegraph reports.
The 11-day exercise, which includes three US aircraft carrier groups, battleships, ballistic missile cruisers and destroyers, as well as US Marines and Special Forces units, will focus on how to prevent or breach an Iranian blockade of the strait that might come in response to any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Iran has thousands of mines, which it is capable of deploying by aircraft, surface ships, and small submarines.