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Mr. Obama’s Tunnel Vision On Iran

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In an interview on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, President Obama was asked about his very public spat with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the latter’s call for the U.S. to set “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear advance which, if crossed, would trigger an American military response coordinated with Israel and perhaps others.

As we noted last week, the president has for many months cautioned the prime minister not to take unilateral action against Iran but to wait for economic sanctions to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear plans. Mr. Obama insists that Israel can rely on a U.S. commitment to act should sanctions fail to deter the Iranians.

To the question “How much pressure have you been getting from Prime Minister Netanyahu to make up your mind to use military force in Iran?” President Obama responded,

Well – look, I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon, because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel, and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race.

The interviewer, Steve Kroft, followed up with, “You’re saying you don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? You don’t feel any pressure?”

To which the president responded,

When it comes to our national security decisions – any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues. Because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.

So for Mr. Obama, however he packages it, Israel’s assessments and importuning are just so much “noise” to be tuned out. To be sure, he says he is sensitive to Israel’s special challenges, but given his admonitions to Israel against unilateral military action until – if ever – he gives them the go-head, it is he who will decide how they will be met and in effect, determine Israel’s future.

But what exactly can he point to that suggests sanctions have moved the Iranians even in the slightest – or that they ever will? Certainly the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never misses an opportunity to boast that Iran will never bow to sanctions. Moreover, barely a day goes by without some senior Iranian official, in addition to repeating the mantra of the impending destruction of Israel, warning the U.S. and Israel of devastating retaliation at the hands of Iranian missiles should Iran be attacked. And this is before they have nuclear weapons.

President Obama seems to be closing his eyes to stark reality. He acknowledges Iran threatens Israel’s destruction. He also says a non-nuclear Iran is vital for American security interests around the world. And it is clear his plan for sanctions has not worked and indeed cannot work. Yet not only does he continue to delay taking forceful action, he stands in the way of Israel’s acting on its own judgments in its own self-defense.

We do not mean to imply that taking military action is an easy decision. But it is the right one when delaying the inevitable will immeasurably add to the cost. At the very least Mr. Obama should get out of Israel’s way.

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3 Responses to “Mr. Obama’s Tunnel Vision On Iran”

  1. Noneyo Getit says:

    This article is the definition of solipsism. Israel, like any country, is entitled to do what it wants but no country is entitled to allies. As an American I would like to point out we are bending over backwards calling in every diplomatic favor we have to isolate Iran economically. Most likely we will have to continue allowing China to cheat on currency fixing to keep them on board lowering their oil purchases. This is costing us huge economically at a time when that is the last thing we need. Also, I think it is polite to refrain from starting a war on your own using what is mainly US military technology (spare me the finer points of who came up with what specific small arm, the army and air force have US vehicles making up the lion's share of their forces and they are supported by our logistics as well).

    Israel is not the only country or people on earth. Those sanctions are taking a huge toll on Iranians who want nothing to do with the current government but who have been oppressed into silence. The United States is your ally, not your lapdog, so stop treating us like one. I think it is pretty rich that you would complain Obama was tuning you out when you tune the rest of the world out CONSTANTLY.

    The sad fact is you don't understand how thoroughly you will play into Iran's hands if you attack them. These sanctions are held together by the co-operation of every nation on earth, not just your neighbors. If there was a preemptive attack the sanctions would fall apart overnight, you would be the aggressor and Iran would be in a better position than ever to obtain a nuclear weapon to the dismay of all including the United States.

  2. Mary Park says:

    I disagree with your premise. Netanyahu says he will go it alone if he has to and by all means, go right ahead. I am from the U.S. and I And 70% of my fellow Americans do not want a war. Do what you must but if you want America involved, it was foolish to have isolated yourself from the rest of the world. Why is it the U.S.'s burden alone? The audacity is too much and it will not be tolerated.

  3. Joshua Segal says:

    Mary, Iran blatantly threatens a country with genocide – do you really want the US to repeat its' disgrace of 70 years ago?

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