Monday, March 05, 2012

Obama's AIPAC Speech And The New Iran Policy

President Obama with AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg
just prior to delivering his speech

The Divide Between Obama & Israel -Jonathan S. Tobin

Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon.

[H]is credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.

Obama complains that it is unfair to characterize his administration as unfriendly to Israel. But in order to buy into his assumption, you have to ignore the entire tenor and much of the substance of the U.S.-Israel relationship since January 2009. Though, as I have often written, Barack Obama has not sought to obstruct the decades-old security alliance between the two countries, he has needlessly and repeatedly quarreled with Israel’s government in such a way as to create the justified impression there is a wide gap between America and the Jewish state on a host of issues including borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem and settlements.

More to the point, despite Obama’s statements about an Iranian nuke being as much a danger to the United States and the West as it is to Israel, talk is cheap, and that is all he has ever done on the issue. That has left Israel with the impression Obama will never take action on an issue that is an existential threat to the Jewish state.

For all of his lip service to the Iranian threat, Obama clearly is still more worried about Israel [striking Iran].

But the problem is Obama is bluffing when he talks about being willing to hit Iran. His halfhearted attempt to force Iran to its knees via sanctions is failing, and the idea that waiting until the end of the year (when, Obama hopes, he will be safely re-elected and thus free from needing to worry about Jewish voters or donors) to see if it works is just hot air. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will be in Washington to meet with Obama following his address to the AIPAC conference, knows this, and that will be focal point of their next confrontation.

The divide here is not between a Democrat and a member of the Likud but between an American who is ambivalent about Israel and an Israeli who is deeply sympathetic to the United States. Obama [trying] to portray himself as Israel’s best friend only reinforces the phony nature of the president’s Jewish charm offensive.

"I Do Not Have a Policy of Containment" for Iran -President Obama

"Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."
[White House]
Obama Says U.S. Serious about Using Force -Christi Parsons & Paul Richter

President Obama said for the first time that he did not view "containment" as an option if Iran developed a nuclear weapon. A containment strategy would not work because of the danger of nuclear arms spreading throughout the region, he said. That would threaten not only the security of Israel, but also that of the U.S. and Europe.
(Los Angeles Times)

Gray Area Between the Red Lines -Dan Margalit

Both the U.S. and Israel have declared unequivocally that they will not allow Iran to gain nuclear capabilities. The dispute is only about where the red line is drawn. If Israel accepts the U.S.'s way of thinking, it is in fact leaving the attack on Iran's nuclear facilities entirely up to the Americans, relinquishing its ability to exercise independent judgment. And what if the White House changes its mind?
(Israel Hayom)

Obama's Hawkish Iran Turn -Editorial
As White House U-turns go, President Obama's hawkish rhetorical shift on Iran in the last week has been remarkable. The question now is whether Israel, and especially Iran, will believe that he means it after three years of trying to woo the mullahs to the bargaining table with diplomacy.

Mr. Obama opened the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Sunday with a keynote whose strong talk on Iran kept the audience coming to its feet.

The timing of all this is no accident as Benjamin Netanyahu meets Mr. Obama in the White House today amid intense speculation about an imminent Israeli strike on Iran. In an interview with Journal editors, Eyal Gabbai, the former director general of the Israeli Prime Minister's office, said Mr. Netanyahu's meeting with Mr. Obama "will be the last time they can speak face-to-face before a decision is taken."

[S]enior Administration officials have repeatedly sounded as if their top priority is deterring Israel, rather than stopping Iran from getting a bomb. As recently as November, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said a military strike would have "unintended consequences" and wouldn't necessarily result in "deterring Iran from what they want to do." In the last two weeks, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said an Israeli strike would be "destabilizing," while Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that the Iranians haven't decided to build a bomb. Little wonder the Israelis are nervous about U.S. resolve.

The question Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli leaders have to ponder is whether Mr. Obama now means what he says. The President has built up an immense trust deficit with Israel that can't be easily dispensed in a week. All the more so when Israelis know that this is an election year when Mr. Obama needs to appear more pro-Israel than he would if he is re-elected.

It's welcome news if Mr. Obama is now trying to put those fears to rest, but he is also more outspoken than ever in trying to avert Israel from acting on its own. "Do we want a distraction in which Iran can portray itself as a victim, and deflect attention from what has to be the core issue, which is their pursuit of nuclear weapons?" Mr. Obama told Mr. Goldberg—the "distraction" here meaning an Israeli attack.

It's good to hear Mr. Obama finally sounding serious about stopping a nuclear Iran. But if he now finds himself pleading with Israel not to take matters in its own hands, he should know his Administration's vacillation and mixed signals have done much to force Jerusalem's hand. More fundamentally, a President who says he doesn't "bluff" had better be prepared to act if his bluff is called.
(Wall Street Journal)

The Real Meaning of Obama's New Policy -Barry Rubin

Whether he realizes it or not, Obama changed history with his AIPAC speech. What he did is to make a war between Israel and Iran almost inevitable, let’s say more than 90 percent probable, most likely some time in late 2013, 2014, or 2015.

What a lot of people are going to miss is not that Israel now thinks Obama is reliable but that it knows he has now locked publicly into a major commitment. If Israel ever were to attack an Iran on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, how is Obama going to bash Israel for doing so? In effect, then, Israel has traded patience for freedom of action.

If and when Iran obtains a nuclear weapon then the U.S. government will support an attack by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities. It might even join in with such an attack.

This is a commitment that cannot be retracted. It will apply whether Obama wins or loses the election. It will apply if he changes his mind. Some will see his action as heroic; others will see it as reckless. But it makes no sense to see it as false or to nitpick about his precise definition of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

The phrase often quoted from Obama’s speech—that U.S. policy will not take any instrument off the table—is not important. It is the standard U.S. line we have heard for years. Obama has now gone far beyond this. The new U.S. position is that if Iran builds a single atomic bomb that means force sufficient to destroy its nuclar capacity entirely is the only instrument on the table. What is important is that Obama’s speech provides a green light for an Israeli attack.

[Obama] has defined destroying Iran’s nuclear capability as a basic U.S. interest. He has left himself no way out. Some believe that Obama will back off this commitment. But what’s he going to do if Israel attacks in a year or two? Say that he wanted Israel to wait another week or month...?

We are now on the road to war. That’s what is important, not whether Obama gained votes or whether he is sincere or at precisely what second U.S. policymakers decide Iran has met the conditions for getting bombed.

This is huge and can be summarized as follows:
Iran gets nukes. Boom!
[PJ Media]


Obama’s very small stick -Editorial

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Mr. Obama touted his Sept. 2011 pro-Israel U.N. speech. “No president,” he said, “has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time.”

But no other president has had to keep reiterating such support, because in every other administration it was implicit and understood. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, if you have to keep insisting you are a lady, you aren’t.
[Washington Times]

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