White House spokesman Jay Carney recently reiterated the administration’s mantra about Iran, saying there was still “time and space” for a diplomatic solution to be found to resolve the impasse over its nuclear threat.
While no one actually believes there is even the slightest hope for diplomacy or sanctions to work, the White House is publicly clinging to this position since the alternative – being forced to admit that it has been wrong all along about Iran and must change course in order to avoid a catastrophe – is unthinkable.
The spectacle of the administration standing by its determination to keep talking with Iran long after Tehran effectively scuttled the P5+1 nuclear talks has to be discouraging to Israel’s government and can, in no small measure, be the reason why the Jewish state seems to be bubbling over with speculation about an attack on Iran sometime before the U.S. presidential election.
With even U.S. intelligence now finally admitting that Iran is working on a bomb and with the Islamist regime making it clear it has no interest in agreeing to a compromise agreement on the issue, Israeli leaders may be rapidly coming to the conclusion that they have no alternative but to strike soon, before it’s too late.
Though foreign policy realists and other Israel critics are denouncing the Israeli threats, the only way to convince Jerusalem to stand down and follow America’s lead is for President Obama to start speaking honestly about the failure of his belated attempt to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambition.
Israelis are understandably divided on the wisdom of acting on their own since they, and not the United States, would pay the highest price in terms of casualties and terror attacks that would likely follow a strike on Iran.
Everyone, including Netanyahu’s critics and opponents of a unilateral strike, seem to agree that a U.S.-led action would be ideal. But lack of confidence in Obama’s willingness to act may leave Netanyahu and his cabinet no choice. Even in the face of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that is more realistic about the Iranian threat, the Americans are still acting as if they have all the time in the world to decide to do something about this peril. By contrast, Israelis know that by next year the Iranians may have refined more uranium and stored it in underground bunkers that may be impervious to Israel’s attack capabilities.
While reports about Israel telling the U.S. it needs to know by September 25 whether Washington will take action are unconfirmed, Netanyahu’s decision must be influenced by his confidence level in Obama’s willingness to take action. Should he wait until after November, it may turn out to be too late to make a difference. Even more worrisome is whether a reelected Obama could be relied upon to make good on his promise to stop Iran.
Those who are calling on Israel to lower the temperature on the war talk are addressing their entreaties to the wrong capital. The only way to calm down Israel is for Obama to start speaking the truth about Iran. Since there seems little chance of that happening, expect to hear even more talk of war emanating from Israel.
Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this originally appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.