Netanyahu at U.N.: ‘Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too’

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took aim squarely at newly elected Iranian Hassan Rouhani. Netanyahu insisted that despite Rouhani’s “charm offensive,” the Iranian leader “doesn’t want to give up Iran’s nuclear weapons.”

Here’s a transcript of Netanyahu’s speech, and here is a relevant portion:

I have argued for many years, including on this podium, that the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat.  And that policy is today bearing fruit.  Thanks to the effort of many countries, many represented here, and under the leadership of the United States, tough sanctions have taken a big bite out of Iran’s economy.  Oil revenues have fallen.  The currency has plummeted.  Banks are hard pressed to transfer money.

So as a result, the regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions removed.  That’s why Rouhani got elected in the first place.  That’s why he launched his charm offensive.

He definitely wants to get the sanctions lifted, I guarantee you that, but he doesn’t want to give up Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return.

Now, here’s the strategy to achieve this:

First, smile a lot.  Smiling never hurts. Second, pay lip service to peace, democracy and tolerance.  Third, offer meaningless concessions in exchange for lifting sanctions.  And fourth, and the most important, ensure that Iran retains sufficient nuclear material and sufficient nuclear infrastructure to race to the bomb at a time that it chooses to do so.  You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this?  I mean, this is a ruse; it’s a ploy.  Why does Rouhani think he can get away with it?  Because he’s gotten away with it before.  Because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.  He even bragged about it.  Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan…”

For those who you who don’t know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form.  Rouhani boasted, and I quote: “By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.”

He fooled the world once.  Now he thinks he can fool it again.  You see, Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too. And he has another reason to believe that he can get away with this, and that reason is called North Korea.

The North Koreans apparently didn’t much like being cited by Netanyahu as a case study.

Daniel Treiman is a contributing writer to JTA.