UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Below is a transcript of key portions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly in which he discussed drawing a “red line” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“For nearly a decade, the international community has tried to stop the Iranian nuclear program with diplomacy. Well, that hasn’t worked. Iran uses diplomatic negotiations as a means to buy time to advance its nuclear program.
For over seven years - for over seven years - the international community has tried sanctions with Iran. Under the leadership of President (Barack) Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date. I want to thank the governments represented here that have joined in this effort. It’s had an effect.
Oil exports have been curbed, and the Iranian economy has been hit hard. It’s had an effect on the economy, but we must face the truth: sanctions have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program either. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, during the last year alone, Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges in its underground nuclear facility in Qom.
So at this late hour, there’s only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs, and that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Red lines don’t lead to war. Red lines prevent war. Just look at NATO’s charter. It made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all, and NATO’s red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century. President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban missile crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades.
In fact, it’s the failure to place red lines that’s often invited aggression. If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression, and World War II might have been avoided.
In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.
Clear red lines have also worked with Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. The United States drew a clear red line, and Iran backed off.
Now, red lines could be drawn in different parts of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but to be credible, a red line must be drawn first and foremost in one vital part of their program - on Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium. Now, let me explain why.
Basically, any bomb consists of explosive material and a mechanism to ignite it. The simplest example is gunpowder and a fuse. That is, you light the fuse and you set off the gunpowder.
In the case of Iran’s plans to build a nuclear weapon, the gunpowder is enriched uranium; the fuse is a nuclear detonator. For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear fuse.
For a country like Iran, it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in big - very big - industrial plants. Those uranium plants are visible, and they’re still vulnerable.
In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator - the fuse - in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months. The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop, especially in Iran. That’s a country that’s bigger than France, Germany, Italy and Britain combined.
The same is true for the small facility in which they could assemble a warhead or a nuclear device that could be placed in a container ship. Chances are you won’t find that facility either.
So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.
So how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb, and how close is Iran to getting it?
Well, let me show you. (I) brought a diagram for you. Here’s (the) diagram. This is a bomb. This is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium.
And Iran has to go through three stages. The first stage, they have to enrich enough low-enriched uranium. The second stage, they have to enrich enough medium-enriched uranium. And the third stage and final stage, they have to enrich enough high-enriched uranium for the first bomb.
Where’s Iran? Iran’s completed the first stage. Took them many years, but they completed it, and they’re 70 percent of the way there.
Now they’re well into the second stage. And by next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I’ve told you now is not based on secret information. It’s not based on military intelligence. It’s based on the public reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They’re online.
So if these are the facts - if these are the facts - and they are - where should a red line be drawn? A red line should be drawn right here (draws line on diagram) before - before - Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb, before Iran gets to a point where it’s a few months away - or a few weeks away - from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
Now, each day that point is getting closer. And that’s why I speak today with such a sense of urgency, and that’s why everyone should have a sense of urgency.
Now, there are some who claim that even if Iran completes the enrichment process, even if it crosses that red line that I just drew, our intelligence agencies will know when and where Iran will make the fuse, assemble the bomb and prepare the warhead.
Look, no one appreciates our intelligence agencies more than the prime minister of Israel. All these leading intelligence agencies are superb, including ours. They’ve foiled many attacks. They’ve saved many lives. But they are not foolproof.
For over two years our intelligence agencies didn’t know that Iran was building a huge nuclear enrichment plant under a mountain. Do we want to risk the security of the world on the assumption that we would find in time a small workshop in a country half the size of Europe?
Ladies and gentlemen, the relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb.
The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.
And I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.
Two days ago, from this podium, President Obama reiterated that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be contained. I very much appreciate the president’s position, as does everyone in my country.
We share the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This goal unites the people of Israel. It unites Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike. And it is shared by important leaders throughout the world. What I have said today will help ensure that this common goal is achieved.
Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together.”
Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; editing by Todd Eastham