(NEW YORK) — With speculation that President Obama may meet with newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly, where both leaders are scheduled to deliver speeches on Tuesday, the Israeli ambassador to the United States has doubts that possible diplomatic talks will bring real progress.
“Diplomacy is good, but only if brings about results,” Ambassador Michael Oren told ABC News.
“We get the impression that they want to spin out for more time,” he said. “He himself [Rouhani] has lied in the past. He actually wrote a memoir bragging about how he lied to the West; he smiled at the West and installed centrifuges.”
Oren acknowledged that Iran’s seemingly renewed willingness for diplomatic engagement coupled with a war-weary American public make for a certain sort of nightmare for Israel, which relies on its military alliance with the U.S.
“It is a situation we have faced under previous administrations too,” Oren said. “But we have very close communication and consultation with the United States. …President Obama has stated repeatedly that he understands that Iran with a nuclear weapon poses an existential threat to Israel, that he is committed to Israel’s security and that Israel has a right to defend itself.”
Looking back at last year’s U.N. General Assembly, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red line warning Iran against producing a certain quantity of enriched uranium, Oren said Israel’s warning was effective. But he said now it’s time for a new red line.
“They never crossed the line, so the line worked,” Oren said. “Now there has to be a new defining point beyond which the Iranians can’t go. We believe strongly that that point is closing down the secret facility at Qom, we believe it’s shipping out all of their enriched uranium, closing their plutonium plant, they have another route to a bomb through the plutonium plant, and just ceasing enrichment entirely.”
Israel is hopeful, Oren said, that a “credible military threat” along with sanctions, will bring Iran to the negotiating table on Israel’s terms. And he says Syria provides a strong example.
“If the Iranians are looking very closely at what’s happened in Syria, and if the Syrian diplomacy works, I think that will send a very powerful message indeed to the decision-makers and the decision-maker in particular, the Supreme Leader in Tehran,” he said.
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