Over the last several days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has loudly and repeatedly urged that President Obama draw a "red line" that Iran's nuclear program can't cross, warning that without such a line, the Islamic Republic will likely be within reach of building its first atomic bomb in six or seven months. Obama administration officials say Netanyahu's timetable is wrong, and that Tehran will need at least a year to gather the nuclear fuel it would need, and even longer to fit a warhead onto a missile. Is a violent showdown between Iran and Israel nearly here? Many analysts see Netanyahu's increasingly vocal demands as proof that conflict is looming. Here, four other signs that the clock might really be running out:
1. Iran is getting more and more belligerent
Tehran hasn't exactly been mending its ways in the face of aggressive warnings and tightening sanctions, says Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge. In fact, Iran's Revolutionary Guard recently stoked tensions even further by admitting that "its troops are now on the ground in Syria," helping the embattled regime in its effort to wipe out the pro-democracy opposition. Of all the disturbing developments surrounding Iran's refusal to curb its nuclear program, that could be the one "to light this whole mess on fire."
2. And accusing nuclear inspectors of sabotage
Iran's nuclear program chief, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, says "only mutual trust" will allow his country to soothe the West's fears about his country's nuclear program, say Najmeh Bozorgmehr and James Blitz in Britain's Financial Times, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes. But it's becoming pretty clear that neither side believes a word the other says. This week, Abbasi-Davani even accused International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors of having been infiltrated by "terrorists and saboteurs" who in August used explosives to knock out power to one of Iran's uranium enrichment facilities. The IAEA, of course, denies the charge, and says Iran is simply unwilling to cooperate to provide "credible assurance" that it's not trying to build a bomb.
3. The West is gathering an armada off Iran
If you need proof that Western leaders think Israel is getting ready to strike Iran, take a look at the Persian Gulf, says Sean Rayment at Britain's Telegraph. The U.S. and Britain are massing an armada of warships because they believe that Tehran would respond to an attack on its nuclear facilities by mining or blockading the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping lane that handles 35 percent of the world's oil distributed by sea. This "unprecedented show of force" is a clear sign that the long-feared showdown might be near.
4. Diplomacy is going nowhere
"There is still time" to work out a negotiated solution and avoid war, Martin Indyk, America's former ambassador to Israel tells CBS News. "I'm pessimistic about that," though, as Iran hasn't budged. If nothing changes, "then I am afraid that 2013 is going to be a year in which we're going to have a military confrontation with Iran."