Netanyahu: Nuclear Umbrella Offer to Saudis Signals Iran Shift

YERUSHALAYIM -

Reports that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went to Saudi Arabia to offer the kingdom a “nuclear umbrella” to protect them from the Iranian threat “signals a shift in U.S. policy from preventing a nuclear Iran to containing one,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told CBS News in an interview.

Working on the premise that you don’t need an umbrella unless you think it might rain, Netanyahu charged that such a proposal indicates that Washington is not determined to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as promised.

“I think there’s a better deal,” he said, reiterating his message to Congress. “The better deal is to increase the breakout time and limit Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.”

The prime minister advocated a breakout time longer than the U.S. position of one year.

“In a year, anything could happen,” he said, noting that Israel’s preference is to prevent Iran from enriching any material on its own soil. “You could have international crises. They could get away with it.”

U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke with CBS News this weekend, and commented on Iran:

“If we cannot verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there’s a breakout period so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action — if we don’t have that kind of deal, then we’re not going to take it,” Obama said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on Sunday that he supports Netanyahu’s position against the nuclear deal in its current form.

“I’m hoping we can get 67 senators,” McConnell said, referring to the majority needed to override a presidential veto. Referring to the president, he continued: “I think he’s afraid that we might not approve it.”

Meanwhile, Washington is trying to calm tensions with Israel over the Iran issue. A senior U.S. official told Israeli reporters at a briefing that the agreement reached with Iran will not be limited to 10 years, as has been reported.

“We’re talking about several stages of the agreement that would last beyond a decade, and include transparency, supervision and a control mechanism that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program does not reach nuclear weapons,” the official said.

The official noted that great effort was made in order to ensure that Iran would need at least a year from the moment it decided to develop nuclear weapons to the time it could actually have them, the so-called “breakout” time.

“We want to have time to react if we find that Iran has violated the understandings, and has a covert channel to produce nuclear weapons,” he said.