US mimics Netanyahu’s cartoon bomb to sell nuke deal

In apparent jab at Israeli leader, White House revamps PM’s famous diagram to point out merits of agreement with Iran

Itamar Sharon is a news editor at The Times of Israel

A diagram issued by the White House, similar to the one used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 to illustrate the dangers of a nuclear Iran, points out the advantages of a nuclear deal with Tehran, April 8, 2015 (Photo credit: Courtesy  White House website)
A diagram issued by the White House, similar to the one used by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 to illustrate the dangers of a nuclear Iran, points out the advantages of a nuclear deal with Tehran, April 8, 2015 (Photo credit: Courtesy White House website)

The White House on Wednesday appeared to take a swipe at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in its attempt to promote the merits of the framework nuclear agreement with Iran, using an updated revamp of the Israeli leader’s diagram of the Iranian bomb to point out the virtues of the emerging accord.

With diplomatic sparring between Israel and the US over the worth of last week’s Lausanne deal in full swing, the White House published a sketch of a cartoon bomb listing the advantages of the agreement — a text-heavy lookalike of the prop used by Netanyahu in his 2012 address to the UN General Assembly.

The diagram posted to the White House’s official website, as well as its Twitter feed, compared two possible scenarios presented in bullet points beside the drawing: “Without the deal” and “With the deal.”

Without the deal, it asserted, the world would face an Iran with “resumed production of highly enriched uranium; no limits on stockpile of enriched uranium; unlimited increase and advance of centrifuges.” This, the diagram indicated, could indeed bring about the scenario of a nuclear-armed Iran presented by the Israeli premier in the 2012 speech. It brought home the point by aping Netanyahu’s marker-like red line at the top of the bomb diagram to denote this eventuality.

With the deal, however, the international community would gain “no production or stockpile of highly enriched uranium; low-enriched uranium stockpile reduced by 98 percent and capped; centirfuges reduced by two-thirds.” This eventuality was marked by a blue marker at the bottom of the diagram.

“Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down,” the chart concluded. A pair of scissors seen cutting the Iranian bomb’s lighted fuse illustrated this point.

The famous Netanyahu bomb speech saw the prime minister produce a cartoon-like diagram of a bomb and a wick. “This is a bomb; this is a fuse,” he told the UN General Assembly.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his 'red line' for Iran on a cartoon bomb drawing during a September 27 speech to the General Assembly (photo credit: Avi Ohayun, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his ‘red line’ for Iran on a cartoon bomb drawing during a September 27, 2012, speech to the UN General Assembly (photo credit: Avi Ohayun, GPO)

Explaining that the bomb itself was split into three stages of readiness, and that a red line had to be drawn in order to stop Iran’s advancement straight through to the third stage, he produced a red marker and said, “The red line should be drawn right here… 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.”

A second diagram on the White House website explained that the agreement reached between world powers and Tehran effectively cut off Iran’s four potential pathways to a bomb. It read: “highly enriched uranium at Natanz facility — blocked; highly enriched uranium at Fordow facility — blocked; weapons-grade plutonium — blocked; covert attempts to produce fissile material — blocked.”

Netanyahu said Wednesday that he concurred with the view that President Barack Obama presented a day earlier during an NPR interview, in which Obama appeared to acknowledge that Iran would be able to break out to the bomb as soon as the nuclear agreement expires.

“Israel shares the view that with the expiry of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Iran’s breakout time for acquiring nuclear bombs will be zero,” Netanyahu said in a video message.

In his message, Netanyahu appeared to reaffirm an Israeli rejection of the White House clarifications to the president’s remarks.

A senior official told The Times of Israel earlier Wednesday that Israel understood the president to be acknowledging the problematics of the accord. The official noted, furthermore, that Netanyahu — a relentless opponent of the US-backed terms — had highlighted precisely the problem that Obama cited when he addressed both houses of Congress last month.

In the video, Netanyahu said the minimal break-out time “will be an inevitable result of the automatic removal of limitations on the nuclear program, which will enable Iran to reach industrial-grade capability in producing nuclear bombs.”

“The alternative to this bad agreement is not a war; the alternative is a good agreement,” Netanyahu added. “This can be achieved but one must stand firm and demand the conditions necessary to safeguard the security of the State of Israel, the security of the region and the security of the world.”

In a Monday interview with NPR, Obama, whose has been selling the framework deal to critics, was pushing back on the charge that the deal being negotiated by US-led world powers fails to eliminate the risk of Tehran breaking out to the bomb, because it allows Iran to keep enriching uranium.

He said that Iran will be capped for a decade at 300 kilograms of enriched uranium — not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material. He then added: “What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.”

The State Department later scrambled to deny that Obama had acknowledged Iran will be allowed to build nuclear weapons at will after the emerging deal expires. State Department acting spokesperson Marie Harf said Tuesday that Obama “was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal.”

In a Washington Post opinion piece Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon hit back at critics who have said that Israel’s position on the agreement amounts to warmongering.

“The choice is not between this bad deal and war,” Ya’alon said.

“The alternative is a better deal that significantly rolls back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and links the lifting of restrictions on its nuclear program to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its terrorism across the globe and its threats to annihilate Israel,” he said.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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