How Washington Encourages Israel to Bomb Iran
By Reuel Marc Gerecht, World Street Journal, March 26, 2012
In recent speeches, interviews and private meetings, President Obama has been trying hard to dissuade Israel from bombing Iran‘s nuclear facilities. All along, however, he’s actually made it much easier for Israel to attack. The capabilities and will of Israel’s military remain unclear, but the critical parts of the administration’s Iran policy (plus the behavior of the Islamic Republic’s ruler, Ali Khamenei) have combined to encourage the Israelis to strike.
Public statements define a president’s diplomacy, and in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this month Mr. Obama intensely affirmed “Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.” He added that “no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.”
By so framing the Iranian nuclear debate, the president has forced a spotlight on two things that his administration has wanted to leave vague: the efficacy of sanctions and the quality of American intelligence on Tehran’s nuclear program. The Israelis are sure to draw attention to both in the coming months.
Given Mr. Khamanei’s rejection of engagement, Mr. Obama has backed sanctions because they are the only plausible alternative to war or surrender. Ditto Congress, which has been the real driver of sanctions. But the timeline for economic coercion to work has always depended on Israeli or American military capabilities and the quality of Western intelligence. Neither factor engenders much patience.
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