Another Israeli Blackmail
Once again, the Israeli propaganda machine is at work. This time, it is Obama's turn to be lectured about the so-called imminent Iranian nuclear threat and the need to draw a line on the sand for Iran. Last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu raised a veiled criticism against the current US administration because of its handling of Iran's nuclear issue. Although he did not mention Obama by name, Netanyahu's comments appeared to be against the US President. "The international community is not setting Iran a clear red line, and Iran does not see international determination to stop its nuclear project. Until Iran sees a clear red line and such determination, it will not stop the progress of its nuclear project-- and Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told his cabinet.
The differences between the US position and the Israeli position on the imminence of the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program are quite evident. While Obama considers Iran's decision to build a nuclear weapon as a non-tolerable act, Netanyahu believes that Iran's capability to build nuclear weapons must not be tolerated. It was only a few weeks ago when the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff used blunt language to dissociate the US government from any Israeli unilateral action against Iran. While referring to an Israeli attack as delaying and not destroying Iran's nuclear program, General Dempsey said that if Iran was attacked prematurely, "I don't want to be accused of trying to influence, nor do I want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it." The excessively harsh language used by Dempsey was considered in Israel as insulting, exhibiting a division between the US and Israel which would be beneficial only to Iran.
Netanyahu's remarks seemed to be a response to Dempsey's comments. However, one can read more into the Israeli leader's words. The timing of Netanyahu's remarks is related to hot debates going on between Republicans and Democrats in the election campaigns in America. It is an open secret that Netanyahu is not on good terms with Obama, hence doing whatever it takes to have his old friend, Mitt Romney, elected as the next US president. Therefore, it is not surprising to see Netanyahu pushing Obama to define a red line for Iran at this juncture. Cognizant of the fact that Obama needs the Jewish votes in the very tight race for the White House, Netanyahu is pressing the US administration to take a new bold position against Iran before the November election.
Israeli pressure on Obama seems to be working. US newspapers have reported that there has been an internal debate within the administration as to how to formulate an explicit warning to Iran that could satisfy Israel. Israeli officials expect Obama to announce the new position either during the ongoing Democratic Convention or in the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting later this month. In the meantime, the US is taking a number of measures to force Iran to be more flexible in nuclear negotiations. As the New York Times reports, "these include naval exercises and new antimissile systems in the Persian Gulf and a more forceful clamping down on Iranian oil revenue."
Bearing in mind the realities of an election year in America, Mr. Obama may be willing to accept the Israeli pressure and issue an ultimatum to Iran. However, the US and Israel should understand that unilateral or joint hostile actions against Iran will be faced with severe responses from Iran. They should realize that they can initiate aggression against Iran, but the game's end is not necessarily in their hands. It is hoped that the next round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 countries will bear fruit, therefore saving the region from tensions and uncertainties.