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“It was an open, wide-ranging constructive conversation,” a senior State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity. “They had an in-depth discussion on Iran, and reaffirmed that the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Netanyahu agreed to “continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal,” the official added.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called Mr. Obama’s decision not to meet Mr. Netanyahu an “extraordinarily confusing and troubling” act. The White House explained that the meeting was not possible because the two leaders were not in New York at the same time.

Red lines

In his U.N. speech, Mr. Netanyahu cited history to make the case for setting limits on Iran’s nuclear program, saying Western powers could have averted World War II in 1939 if they had drawn red lines on Nazi aggression.
Western opponents of Adolf Hitler’s regime waited too long to act, he said.

“In the end they triumphed, but in a horrific cost,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We cannot let that happen again.”
Mr. Netanyahu said he thinks Iran would back down if faced with a clear red line.

“It’s the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression,” he said. “Red lines don’t lead to war. Red lines prevent war.”

A nuclear-armed Iran would be no more acceptable than a nuclear-armed al Qaeda, he added.

But Michelle Flournoy, a former undersecretary for defense policy at the Pentagon who now is advising the Obama re-election campaign, said Thursday that the administration has “laid out a red line, and that is Iran cannot actually get a weapon.”

“We’ve had extensive, intensive talks with the Israelis,” Mrs. Flournoy said. “There’s no light between us on the intelligence picture. There’s no light between us on the policy objective.”

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat because of the Islamic republic’s repeated calls for the Jewish state’s destruction and Tehran’s support for Islamist militant groups, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which have sought to destroy Israel.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, confirmed Mr. Netanyahu’s prediction that Iran will have enough partially enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon by as early as next spring.

“What’s clear is that Iran’s nuclear red line will occur long before Iran’s economic-cripple date, when the regime faces imminent economic collapse as a result of sanctions,” said Mr. Dubowitz. “That is the uncomfortable conclusion that the Obama administration faces: Iranian nuclear physics is beating western economic pressure.”

‘Who’d be safe’

Mr. Netanyahu noted that the Iranian regime crushed mass protests by its own people in 2009 and is helping Syria’s regime crackdown on protest. Iran has spread its terrorist network to two dozen countries across five continents and plotted to blow up a restaurant a few blocks from the White House, he said.

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