We can define “red lines” as acts, activities, or situations that if carried out or reached mandate actions to redress the situation. The purpose of drawing these lines is twofold: to deter these said acts or activities, and to judge that the situation is serious enough to warrant reactions.
Red lines, virtual or real, have been drawn in the past as part of strategies to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue. These lines were defined and later crossed without any action taken – other than verbal.
The issue is now resurfacing as part of a proposed understanding between the US administration and Israel, with the intention of lowering the tension between them. The main point of contention is that Israel assesses that Iran has already gone far enough with its nuclear weapons development program to produce them at will, while the US administration thinks that there is time enough for a “diplomatic solution” to this issue.
The US also assesses that it will know well in advance if the Iranians are “breaking out” and starting the relatively short route towards the production of nuclear weapons. The Times of Israel reported that on August 10, 2012, Jay Carney, spokesman for the White House, said that the United States “can see what’s going on with Iran’s nuclear program” and that it would know “if Tehran is close to obtaining a nuclear weapon. I would also say that we have eyes – we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move towards acquiring a weapon.” He later said he was referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency officials who are mandated to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites. This, in a way, set a red line for Iran.
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