The primary imperative for the United States and President Barack Obama is to put an end to Iran's nuclear race, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said before his swearing-in Tuesday, adding that if the US failed to do so Israel might be forced to resort to a military strike on the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations.
"The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told The Atlantic. The Iranian drive for a nuclear weapon was a "hinge of history," he said, emphasizing that all of "Western civilization" was responsible for preventing an Iranian bomb.
"You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs," Netanyahu said of the Iranian regime. "When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran."
Netanyahu suggested that Israeli preemptive strikes against perceived threats were the result of the Jewish people learning from a long history of grappling against those who threatened their collective existence. He cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to "wipe Israel off the map," as well as a recent remark by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the effect that Israel was a "cancerous tumor."
However, despite Iran's singling-out of Israel, he said, the rest of the world would be well advised to take the threat emanating from Teheran seriously. He voiced support for Obama's strategy of engaging Iran in dialogue, as long as the negotiations worked swiftly to convince Iran to relinquish its nuclear program.
"How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it," he said, although he was not optimistic regarding the chances that dialogue could persuade Iran to reconsider its interests. Nevertheless, he said, economic sanctions could still make a difference. "I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means," he said.
Iran's leadership, Netanyahu added, was not immune to pressure, but fanatic elements made it extremely dangerous to risk relying on economic sanctions alone.
"Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That's what makes them so dangerous," he said. "Since the dawn of the nuclear age, we have not had a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest. People say that they'll behave like any other nuclear power. Can you take the risk? Can you assume that?"
Netanyahu cited Teheran's tactics during its protracted war with Iraq in the 1980s as evidence of irrational behavior on the part of Iran. "[They] wasted over a million lives without batting an eyelash," he said. "It didn't sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness. It wasn't Britain after World War I, lapsing into pacifism because of the great tragedy of a loss of a generation. You see nothing of the kind."
PM: We may be forced to attack Iran | Iran news | Jerusalem Post