Israel’s ever-shifting red lines, and what’s missing from the Iran debate


In Foreign Policy Magazine, nonproliferation expert and former Defense Department official Graham Allison outlines how Israel has repeatedly shifted its stated Iran red lines over the past two decades, warning that this record has “undermined Israel’s credibility.”

He writes:


The pattern is clear: As Iran has crossed each red line, Israel has retreated to the next and, in effect, hit the repeat button. From conversion of uranium, to production of low-enriched uranium (less than 5 percent) that can be used as fuel for civilian power plants, to a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient (after further enrichment) to make one nuclear bomb, to a stockpile sufficient for half a dozen bombs, to enrichment beyond 5 percent to 20 percent medium-enriched uranium, to operation of centrifuges enriching to 20 percent at the deep underground facility at Fordow, to achievement of a undefined "nuclear weapons capability," Israel’s warnings have grown louder, but with no more effect.

He writes that “readers will be reminded of the children’s story of the boy who cried wolf” but cautions: “we should not forget how that story ends: The wolf finally comes, and he eats the boy.”

Allison writes that all parties should focus on what actions to can be taken to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and says that a credible military threat “is part of the equation required for success,” as are pressures from sanctions.”

But he concludes:

What remains missing from this equation are terms for halting Iran’s nuclear progress that any Iranian government could plausibly accept. Immediately after the U.S. election, that should become the intense focus of the United States, Israel, and the international community.

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