"There is no more time for negotiations. The Iranians have been negotiating for four years. Over the last 18 months, there has been some progress in imposing sanctions that have pressured the Iranian leadership. The sanctions are estimated to have cost the Iranian economy about $100 billion just over the last 18 months. Since the entire scope of the Iranian economy is about $450 billion, this signifies a massive blow. Their economy is on the verge of collapse, but they still keep advancing their nuclear program."
"[Iranian President Hasan] Rouhani has launched a charm offensive on the West, but he plans to charm his way to a nuclear weapon. While he sends letters to [U.S. President Barack] Obama and wishes the Jews a happy new year, the centrifuges continue to spin. Not only has the [nuclear] project not stopped, it is galloping forward."
"If the Iranians continue to advance, they will have nuclear capability within six months. Time has run out and the West, chiefly the U.S., must clarify to the Iranians that they have two options: either abandon their nuclear aspirations and save their economy or continue with the nuclear project and risk a real military attack that will destroy the nuclear project and humiliate them. There is no middle ground."
Steinitz suggests that the solution may ultimately emerge from the Iranian people themselves, who crave a better economic situation. "There is an internal debate within Iran and it should be intensified. The people in Iran have said their piece: If they have to choose between a bomb and saving the economy, they prefer to save the economy. Now an ultimatum must be set, accompanied by a timetable: If you don't honor the Security Council resolution by a certain time, we will attack."
Over the last two months, Steinitz has met with the foreign ministers of three key European countries: Germany, France and Britain. "All the meetings focused on the Iranian issue," he recounts. "If the world fails to maintain a clear, unified front in the face of Iran, they will try to disintegrate the sanctions."
The minister notes that at this point the Iranians have yet to cross the red line set by Netanyahu, but they are constantly trying to erase it. "They have turned the question of how much material they have enriched to 20% irrelevant. They have added so many centrifuges, and even installed second and third generation centrifuges, which are several times more efficient than the old ones. In the past they had to enrich the material from 3.5% to 20%, and that is a process that takes time, and only then from 20% to 90%. Today they can jump directly from 3.5% to 90%, which is fissile, weapons-grade material. The timetable today is much shorter."