Netanyahu's simple bomb graphic confuses the nuclear experts
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to simplify the Iranian nuclear issue with the diagram he brought out on the UN podium, but experts say he actually made it more confusing.
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But the bomb chart triggered a much bigger splash. Netanyahu’s supporters in Israel praised his performance. "The whole world now understands how dangerous a nuclear Iran is," said Ofir Akunis, a parliament member from the prime minister’s Likud party, according to the Times of Israel.Skip to next paragraph
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Observers noted that intentional or not, the stir caused by the diagram completely overshadowed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech that day, in which, among other criticism, he charged Israel with ethnic cleansing.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu's critics ridiculed him for the gimmick, unleashing a flood of satirical riffs, from inserting images of Looney Toons cartoons into photos of Netanyahu on the UN podium (his bomb diagram was compared to that of cartoon villain Wile E. Coyote) to an image of Bob Dylan from his 1960s video Subterranean Homesick Blues, holding the chart.
"Despite all the mocking of various individuals of little faith, the image of the Israeli prime minister and the bomb will be broadcast in every news edition around the world, and will be incorporated in the video clips made by the Republican Party for the presidential campaign," wrote Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot. "There is nothing like a bombshell to spice things up. The technical details will not particularly trouble those who view the image."
Did Netanyahu actually hurt his case?
Israeli Iran experts also took issue with Netanyahu’s specification of next spring and summer as the ultimate deadline to stop Iran.
Some said that the speech implies that Israel will attack next summer if the US doesn’t act. They also noted that Israeli experts have been warning since the 1990s about deadlines of 3 to 5 years for Iran’s nuclear program.
"Timelines are very problematic. So many factors can intervene and slow down the progress" toward a bomb, says Emily Landau, a fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for International Security Studies. "It's hard to make predictions about when they will get to whatever stage. That is always precarious."
Netanyahu asserted that it will be hard for Western monitors and intelligence agencies to detect when Iran actually crosses the line, but Meir Javedanfar, a Tel Aviv-based Iran analyst, says it will be easy because the decision to begin high-level enrichment would actually trigger a red flag to inspectors.
And even though Netanyahu’s red line suggested that that stage would put the Iranians at the threshold of a nuclear weapon, experts say it would still take more time to build a detonators and produce enough bombs to test such a weapon.
“It’s confusing to people who don’t deal with this every day. They could end of thinking that Iran is a red marker away from a bomb, but that’s not entirely true,” says Javedanfar, suggesting the chart was misleading.
"There’s a world of difference between having enough 20 percent enriched uranium and breaking out from the 20 percent to make higher levels of enrichment to make a bomb," he says. "I think people think this will be an easy decision to make, it won’t. It will be one of the most monumental decisions the [Iranian] regime can make."