Target Iran: A War of Choice or Necessity?

Obama’s Failed Foreign Policy Has Everyone Spinning

There’s a mountain of activity, editorials, blog posts, opinion pieces & think tank rhetoric exploding outward this week regarding Iran. With Obama’s signature foreign policy of engagement crashing & burning, and no direction in sight the spinners are out in force at every level.

American envoys, like Admiral Mullen, Kerry, even VP Biden are & have been shuttling to Israel to hold off any Israeli strike. Sec. Clinton jetted off to Latin America, doing whatever it is she does to unsuccessfully rally for sanctions. On the media front, articles galore delegitimizing strikes as a possible solution..

None of it is on the level

If it were, there would be a credible strategy put forth to counter the military option. But as we’ve seen, the refined fuel blockade combined with IRGC sanctions are nowhere to be found, if anything deadlines which passed months ago are only pointing to sanctions many more months away. Those sanctions are neither a given nor are the odds very good either.

Clearly, the Obama administration is stalling for time, waiting for the Iranian nuclear bomb to become a reality because the President like so many before me have claimed, is rather weak. He was weak on tough engagement, weak on supporting regime change in Iran, and now he’s weak on stopping the Iranian nuclear drive. If he weren’t, the multiple US House & Senate resolutions for fuel sanctions now sitting in drawers nearly a year would have been long ago realities, instead they are blocked by the Administration at every turn..

There are basically three courses open to the Obama administration with respect to Iran. It can do the Full Leverett (drop all pretense of hostility toward Iran and engage them on all issues in the hopes of a grand bargain); it can pursue the course it’s on now, a slow roll of diplomacy towards possible sanctions and international condemnation of Iran that probably won’t alter their nuclear progress; or it can start a war with Iran, which may or may not fully stop their nuclear program but would open the door to a host of consequences, most of them negative.

In contrast to their neoconservative critics, the Obama administration, including senior figures in the military, apparently sees the “hard realities of the world” as mitigating against starting a third war in the Greater Middle East – even if it means conceding some nuclear weapons capability to Iran. Of course, the administration can’t publicly acknowledge this, and so they have pursued the diplomatic and sanctions track, to demonstrate that they are least trying to address the problem.

“Hard Realities of the World”

That above is ‘realism school of thought’ euphemism for weakling, its testament to the overblown Iranian rhetoric. In reality Iran is the weak link, a regime forced to beat its own peoples to remain in power who’s unending glorious pronouncements of strength do little to buttress the fact that the only outlet they have is terror. So far so good, they seem to have terrorized the Obama administration into submission. Unfortunately for him, the American public is a different story..

“Do not even think about bombing Iran,” wrote Michael O’Hanlon and Bruce Reidel in yesterday’s Financial Times.  Pointing out that the US has two unpopular and unfinished wars in the region already, and that the damage from any military strikes on the Islamic Republic would be unlikely to do enough damage to its nuclear program to justify the military and political cost, and also that Iran would have many opportunities to retaliate against US interests in the region, they urge President Obama to take this option off the table completelyLiving with a nuclear Iran won’t be fun, but it’s better than the alternatives, so let’s start making plans for the inevitable.

I actually agree with O’Hanlon and Reid that military strikes against the Iranian nuclear program aren’t likely to get us anywhere good, but that doesn’t mean we can stop thinking about them. Sixty-one percent of Americans asked called Iran’s strength a ‘critical threat’ in a Gallup poll last month;  an additional 29 percent said the Iranian threat was ‘important.’  With 90 percent of the public feeling threatened by Iran — at a moment when nothing special was happening — it’s not clear to me that domestic politics will allow the Obama administration to steer clear of hostilities with Iran even if it wants to. [...]

The Israel Factor

It is worth noting that many of those advocating strategies of retreat are the same people who so boisterously argued for engagement, their track record leaves much to be desired. They argued for shelving the military option before engagement, that worked well as we’ve seen. Now they argue for shelving the military option after engagement.. One begins to suspect their true goal is not solving the Iranian nuclear riddle – But merely shelving the military option at all costs. Good luck with that.

All these pundits may want to stack the shelves & put things in drawers, but those same ‘Hard Realities of the World’ are also in operation in Israel. Here those realities tend to be even harsher than they appear in the local American think tank, filled with lazy chairs & academic tenures. Obama may be trying to stall, his advisers may even think he’s succeeding. Kerry quipped in Israel this week how the US & Israel are on the same page. But he was speaking in the language of fuel sanctions which Israelis understand.. So far, it’s a dialect Obama seems to be unable to comprehend.

A War of Choice or Necessity?

So are we all really on the same page? It doesn’t look like it, but sooner rather than later we are all going to find out. I suspect those flimsy locks on the military engagement drawers won’t stop Israel from doing whatever it deems necessary. Therein lies the rub, those opposed to using every tool in the arsenal cast this as a war of choice, just like Iraq they might argue.

Sadly they are gravely mistaken in my opinion. Here in Israel where the threat is seen a existential in every way – Stopping Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons is a war of necessity, not choice. If Obama keeps stalling and we start shooting, the Iranians themselves will force the President to quickly realize just how wrong many of his advisers often are. With American support for Israel at record highs, and anathema for Iran in similar territory - He may not have that luxury of choice, if or when Iran attacks American interests.

Then the question inevitably becomes – Does America want to strike on its terms, or Iran’s?