Roger Cohen’s New York Times column (January 16th), is the latest in the Obama camp’s efforts to pressure Binyamin Netanyahu to risk Israel’s being nuked by a nuclear Iran rather than cause any ripples in President Obama campaign for re-election to a second term.
He quotes purported advice of an unnamed American ambassador in Europe declaring Mr. Netanyahu an ingrate for all that Obama has done for Israel, and suggests the Netanyahu should “above all stay out of our election-year politics.”
Accordingly, Obama is furious because Netanyahu went “over his head” by speaking “to a Republican-dominated Congress” even though Congress invited him; Netanyahu’s “ingratitude for solid U.S. support”; and Netanyahu’s refusal to declare a second freeze on building Jewish homes over the 1949 armistice lines “for the sake of peace negotiations” even though the first freeze failed to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiations table. For Mr. Cohen: Obama can do no wrong, and Mr. Netanyahu can do no right.
“I would add a further piece of advice to Netanyahu,” Mr. Cohen writes, “if he cares about his dysfunctional relationship with Obama — and he should because Israelis know the United States matters… Do not attack Iran this spring or summer.”
Mr. Cohen writes of Netanyahu’s chutzpah for considering bombing Iran, and this “despite a call from Obama last Thursday and messages from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.”
But Mr. Cohen eventually cuts to the chase: “Then there is the American political calculus. An Israeli strike a few months before the U.S. election in November would stymie Obama. He would be in no position,” Mr. Cohen decries, “to express anger given the clout of the pro-Israel lobby, the important Jewish vote in Florida, and the fulsome support any Israeli bombing would get from the Republican contender.”
Joining Cohen in this anti-Israel media barrage is Aaron David Miller, former State Department Mideast advisor, in Foreign Policy (November 8, 2011), wherein he brings five reasons Israel “might want to think long and hard about preemptively striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
True, “Sanctions may never prevent the Iranians from acquiring a weapon, but they do have some impact,” Mr. Miller says.” Impact perhaps, but anything less than stopping Iran’s producing nuclear weapons is irrelevant.
“An Israeli attack might be quietly welcomed by the rulers of some Persian Gulf states, but,” Mr. Miller decides, “it would be viewed on the Arab street as another example of Israeli aggression and US double standards.”…… “The Iranian capacity to strike the continental United State may be limited, but the capacity to wage a clandestine war against US and Israeli interests across the Middle East is far more formidable,” Mr. Miller opines. In other words, until now, Iran has refrained from waging a clandestine war against US and Israeli interests, but if Israel attacks, then all bets are off.
Mr. Obama’s Iran policy was put under the harsh light of reality by General John M. Keane (ret.), former US Army Vice Chief of Staff, in testimony before the US House Homeland Security and House Intelligence Committee on October 26, 2011:
“Since 2003 in Iraq the Iranians have provided rockets, mortars, enhanced IED’S and money to the Shia Militia who were directly involved in killing U.S. troops in Iraq,” General Keane said. “Moreover, the Iraq Shia Militia were trained by the Iranian special operations force, the Qods Force, at training bases in Iran…… Similarly, the Iranians are supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan with money and ammunition.”
“… It is time to review our strategy for Iran against the harsh reality that despite our rhetoric, attempts to negotiate, isolate and sanction, the Iranians continue to use their proxies against US interests and continue to pursue nuclear weapons. Therefore, one must conclude the obvious that, our policy has failed and failed miserably……if we continue the half measures of the past the Iranians will continue to kill us, continue to sponsor terrorism and use their proxies against our interests and continue to pursue nuclear weapons,” declared General Keane. “The next nightmare for the world is around the corner, an unchecked Iran with nuclear weapons.”
President Obama has apparently decided that he can either community-organizer-style talk the Mullahs into dropping their aspirations for nuclear domination of …well, the world, or he has decided that a nuclear Iran is something that America can live with after all is said and done – or not done in Mr. Obama’s case.
Then why are Mr. Obama and friends so concerned? It’s all about the re-election campaign. No matter how serious the threat, Israel is forbidden to rock the Obama re-election boat. Mr. Netanyahu should keep quiet and stop making Iran an issue.
Nonetheless, the Iranian nuclear threat is fast becoming a significant political football which Republican presidential contenders see Mr. Obama fumbling in a big way.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll (November 23, 2011), American voters, 60 – 33 percent, say that economic sanctions on Iran;s purported nuclear weapons program aren’t effective, and 50 percent say the US should take military action to stop Iran if sanctions don’t work. Moreover, 88 percent perceive Iran’s nuclear program as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” threat to US national security. And according to a January 15th Washington Post-ABC News poll: Americans disapprove of the way Obama has handled the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons by a 48 to 33 percent margin. “The economy and unemployment rate will almost certainly remain top issues throughout the campaign, but Obama’s Republican challengers see an opening and have already drawn parallels between weakness in the US economy and Obama’s positioning with Iran,” writes Scott Clement in the January 18th Foreign Policy. “……Mitt Romney called Iran ‘the gravest threat to America and the world’ and said that Obama ‘did not do what was necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly.’”
Ultimately, the Netanyahu government will do what is best for Israel. Hopefully, the Obama administration will be able to move past politics and do the same for America.
About the Author: The author is a veteran journalist specializing in geo-political and geo-strategic affairs in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Nativ, The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon. His articles have been reprinted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the US Congressional Record.
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