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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can Obama stop Israel from acting on Iran?

Writing in Sunday's Times of London, Martin Ivens describes the preparations that Israel has undertaken for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and makes a good case that as far as the Israelis are concerned, time is running out.

The danger to the rest of the world will be that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, will be in ruins. The old hopes of atoms for peace will become atoms for war as unlovely regimes everywhere reach for the nuclear trigger. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction (Mad) kept the United States and the Soviet Union from blowing us all up and making the rubble bounce. Whether Mad works among multiple hostile powers has never been put to the test. It’s an experiment we can do without. The crazy regime of nuclear-armed North Korea has already rattled its neighbours to breaking point.

The Americans have ruled out a pre-emptive strike on Iran for now but the Israeli air force has been on manoeuvres, conducting dummy bombing runs as far afield as the Strait of Gibraltar. Such a course would be militarily hazardous – “it’s at the very outer limit of our capabilities” says a security source – and, because of the distance to the target and the dispersal of the Iranian nuclear programme, even a successful hit might only postpone the evil day.

Few Israeli politicians show any appetite for such a mission. They would far rather work with the United States and their European friends to stop it. Gilad, however, muses: “To delay the Iranian bomb is not a bad idea.” As for the dangers, “in 1981 our intelligence agencies also advised against a strike on Iraq”. That was when Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak was levelled by an Israeli bombing raid. (I am meeting Gilad on a trip arranged by the British Israel Communications and Research Centre. The sabre-rattling is for my benefit.)

George Bush refused to give the nod to an Israeli raid on Iran, because retaliation against targets in Iraq, the Gulf and the West as well as Israel might follow. Obama will be more reluctant still: the White House’s attempt to reach out to old enemies would be ruined. The president is not standing still as this danger beckons. New US strategies are being applied at breakneck speed across the world – all the old verities are being challenged. This has profound implications for the Middle East: the problem child of the world is about to get a kindly but firm American uncle.
Ivens argues that the United States should 'reassure' Israel to keep it from acting against Iran.
The president’s problem is that Jerusalem is working to a more urgent timetable. As Gilad sees it, the Iranian bomb is “an existential threat” and the point of no return is coming fast. If he is prepared to go to such lengths to save one captured soldier [Amos Gilad has been the lead negotiator in the talks to free Gilad Shalit. CiJ], what will he not do to safeguard his nation? Obama must reassure Israel if he is to hold the ring.
I don't expect Obama to reassure Israel, and I don't believe that Israel - certainly an Israel led by Binyamin Netanyahu - would trust any reassurance that it would receive from President Barack Hussein Obama. In its brief time in office, what this administration has done to American relations with Britain, France and the Catholic Church, pales by comparison to what it has done to American relations with Israel. Here are just some of the affronts that this administration has heaped on Israel in its two months in office.

1. The attempt to appoint Jew-hater Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (not that Brent Scowcroft is any better).

2. The open anger at Shimon Peres (Shimon Peres!) for sending a New Year's greeting to the Iranian people.

3. The open anger at the government of Israel because the City of Jerusalem deigns to try to enforce its own zoning ordinances.

4. The snubbing of IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi during his recent trip to Washington.

5. The veiled and not-so-veiled threats to undermine the Netanyahu government.

6. The participation in the Durban II preparatory conference that is dedicated to destroying Israel, and the commitment to participate in the United Nations 'Human Rights Council' going forward.

7. The agreement to allow Hamas to take part in a 'Palestinian national unity government,' apparently without giving up on destroying Israel.

Given all of those actions (and more) against Israel's best interests just since he took office (see the picture above for one of his campaign statements and another issue from the campaign), and given that the United States has essentially given up on preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, why does anyone think that Israel will listen to Obama? There is wall-to-wall support in this country for taking action against Iran. Unlike the Obama administration, nearly all Israelis understand that for us a nuclear Iran is an existential threat. Even a US promise of a strike against Iran if it carries out a nuclear strike on Israel is not going to move very many people here.

Israeli will pick its own time and place, but I would bet on Israel going this one alone.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The late Prime Minister Menachem Begin set the precedent in 1981 when he ordered the IDF to bomb Iraq's Osirak reactor. It was then at the outer limits of Israel's capabilities. It saved the Jewish State and the entire world including the US, condemned Israel. He made it clear that Israel would never allow any hostile country to acquire a weapon of mass destruction to be used against the Jewish people. Those in the opposition in Israel - Labor Party leader Shimon Peres at the time disgraced themselves by not understanding why it had to be done.

I have no doubt if Begin were alive today and leading the government - as to what he would ultimately do. Bibi faces a huge challenge in following in his footsteps and Israel once again will have to go it all alone. No one will defend Jews today any more than the world did in the 1930s. The difference is Israel has the means to stop Iran and Israel will not allow the possible political fallout to interfere with what needs to be done to preserve the country.

Not even the US can stop Israel from acting on Iran and the hour is growing late.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger the patriot said...

It angers me to say...but I feel under our current administration the US will not stop Iran from acting on its threat to destroy Israel. I support the Israeli govt to do whatever it must do to keep the Jewish State safe. I have a very radical and extreme view when it comes to the Islamic world. I support the eradication of the Islamic church and its members. The US and Israel will never see peace as long as the Islamic church is alive. Long live the Jewish State! G-d loves the IDF!


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