Over the last two weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been repeatedly calling for the U.S. and the international community to set “clear red lines” for Iran. Just this weekend, for example, he made this demand no less than three separate times.
It seems that Netanyahu is practically begging for the U.S. to give Israel an out from having to strike Iran on its own; some kind of guarantee that if it doesn’t the U.S. will or at least some deterrent factor which will cause Iran to slow down its nuclear program.
Otherwise, it seems, Israel will have no choice but to strike, something the U.S. does not look favorably upon.
This morning’s news seemed to bear good tidings for Netanyahu’s “clear red lines” campaign. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last night, Netanyahu said that the U.S. and Israel were currently discussing the issue of red lines.
(The host asked: “Who do you think would follow Canada with some kind of red line?” Netanyahu answered: “Well, we’re discussing this right now with the United States.” Here’s the video.)
The implication being that such red lines might be set, and Israel could thereby avoid or at least push off the agonizing decision of whether, when and how to strike Iran’s nuclear program.
The Jerusalem Post ran with the story, providing the following lead headline this morning: “PM: Israel discussing red lines for Iran with US.” But by 9:30 the Post replaced the lead headline with an almost opposite report from Bloomberg News: “Clinton: US ‘not setting deadlines’ for Iran.”
Apparently, the U.S. Secretary of State also gave an interview yesterday on the same topic, spoiling any positive implications Israelis could glean from the fact that such discussions were taking place. Clinton was asked whether the U.S. will set any “sharper red lines” for Iran and answered, “We’re not setting deadlines” for Iran and said that negotiations are the best way to resolve the situation.
This is yet another public rejection by the U.S. of Israel’s position on Iran’s nuclear program. It comes shortly after the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that he and the U.S. by extension, “don’t want to seem complicit if they [Israel] choose to strike.”
If only this were some public facade meant to utterly confuse the Iranians as the U.S. secretly prepared to fulfill its responsibility as leader of the free world and protect its own interests by striking Iran.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that the Obama administration is still clinging to the naive belief that if America is respected enough and patient enough, and puts enough distance between itself and Israel, the international community will line up behind it (or in front of it, according to the “lead from behind” strategy”), and Iran will willingly give up the one thing that will make it immune from foreign intervention and give it the chance to create that “new international order” the Ayatolla was talking about.
This approach has failed.
The 120 countries and the U.N. Secretary General who participated in the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran proved that the international community is not lined up behind the U.S. and that Iran is not diplomatically isolated.
The negotiations between the Permanent Members of the Security Council and Germany (the “P5+1”) and Iran dragged on and on, went no where and all the while Iran sped up its nuclear program, doubling the number of centrifuges at its nuclear facility buried in a mountain near Qom.
Sanctions might have had time to work had Obama had gotten moving with them at the start of his presidency instead of chasing the holy grail of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord (starting even before Israel held its own elections by dispatching George Mitchell to Israel) and apologizing to the Muslim world with his “address on a new beginning” at Cairo University in which he recognized Iran’s “right to access” nuclear energy.
Aside from more time for sanctions, for the soft-power approach to work, it also would have needed to be backed up by the threat of hard power: a credible military threat, something Israel has long demanded. To be credible that threat would have to have some trigger point, e.g., those “clear red lines” that Netanyahu is begging for but which Clinton said yesterday the U.S. would not set.