Redlines

09.27.12

How Bibi Messed Up His Bomb Chart

Benjamin Netanyahu just finished his speech to the UN General Assembly calling for the world to impose a "red line" on Iran, laying out precisely that point where military action should be used to delay Iran's nuclear progress. To accomplish this goal, Netanyahu used a simple chart that looked like a Wile E. Coyote bomb. Onto this chart, he drew a red line (a feat of imagination that baffles the mind). The reaction on Twitter was mostly negative, though many people noted that we'd all be talking about it, so it kind of worked. But the problems with the presentation go beyond the cartoonish chart.

Netanyahu actually messed up his bomb chart by drawing the red line in the wrong place. He placed the line just above the section of the chart that denotes 90 percent enriched uranium, otherwise known as "weapons-grade." With the line at the top, that suggests Iran can enrich safely up to the 90 percent level of purity, so long as they don't go over—which they won't ever need to, since 90 percent purity is good enough for a bomb. Have a look at his chart, courtesy of a screen grab from Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller:

It seems likely that Netanyahu meant to put his red line below 90 percent purity, which would mean that as soon as Iran tried to enrich any weapons-grade uranium, they'd be bombed. Interestingly, enriching to weapons-grade is a red line that the Obama administration has already laid out. So what's the recent spat between Netanyahu and Obama about again? Has Netanyahu given up his very public campaign to get the U.S. to shift its red lines and lower its threshold for war with Iran? (HT: Noah Pollak)