Public Displays of Affection at the Oval Office

Other than illuminating their impotence, what was the point of Monday's meet-and-greet?

By DEBORAH DANAN
March 6, 2012 17:06
4 minute read.
Netanyahu meets Obama in Washington.

Obama Netanyahu smiling happy meeting 390. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

Netanyahu wants war, Obama wants sanctions but ultimately both want to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.  So, what have we gleaned from yesterday’s gripping meeting in the Oval Office?

Not much really.

The two men skittered and flitted around most of the core issues yet, once again, emerged sans the remotest semblance of any concrete policy. At the same time other key items were completely ignored (did I hear someone say Israel-Palestinian conflict?). Watching them together, I kept imagining that Julie Andrews was standing behind them in the Oval Office, belting out her song, “I could have danced all night.” Netanyahu and Obama, arguably the two slickest orators that either country has ever seen in power, again proved to the world that plush rhetoric –however fire-and-brimstone-y—can never be a match for actual fire and brimstone.

Or in this case, nuclear decay, devastation and destruction.

At the end of the meeting, what we are left with is that vis-à-vis Iran, Netanyahu finds himself in the age-old predicament that is by now all too familiar to Israel. He’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t. For Obama’s part, the US President’s attitude—which, despite being meticulously wrapped in a care package of seemingly supportive statements, was ultimately one of contention—still leaves him with enough wiggle room to ensure that Netanyahu’s damnation won’t spread to the US – at least for the time being.

Here are just a couple of Obama’s vernacular gems heard yesterday:

“Our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid…the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security.”

“My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Body language and pussy-footing aside, Obama’s above remarks seem to indicate that the leaders are in fact dancing in step. Indeed, the chattering classes have opined that the difference of opinion is really only with regards to the timeline for future action. Well let’s remind ourselves of another timeline: 30 years ago, Iran first threatened Israel’s existence. 15 years ago, Netanyahu began warning the world of the possibility of a nuclear Iran. 10 years ago, diplomatic pressure was levied on the country. And finally, 6 years ago, the world began imposing sanctions on Iran.

My favorite part of yesterday’s diplo-dance was when Obama stated emphatically, “When I say all options are at the table, I mean it.”

Oh, he means it so it must be true. Poppycock. No table in existence is even small enough to contain “all options” - simply because today there aren’t any options left. Containment? What does that even mean? It can’t serve the same purpose it did with the Soviets, because there isn’t the fear that Iran’s nuclear program will spread to the rest of the world the way communism threatened to do. For 30 years, the US’s containment policy with regards to Iran has been in constant flux, but regardless, Obama himself already removed that option from the table, saying, “I do not have a policy of containment.”

What next? Sanctions? Never in the past has this tactic prevented a country from developing nuclear weapons—as demonstrated with Pakistan and North Korea—so there’s no reason to think that it will work on Iran, as indeed, it hasn’t until now. By the same token, the West’s attempts to seduce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into a decade long diplo-dance have also failed spectacularly.

The last option, the one being championed by Netanyahu, is a military attack on Iranian plants. At this juncture, this too is rendered a non-option because the chances of Israel emerging as the victor should it choose to strike are nonexistent.

Projectile distance notwithstanding, Israel will never attack Iran on the scale needed to wipe its nuclear program off the map. A strike by Israel will almost certainly mean that any short-lived euphoria—should an attack be successful— will no doubt be followed by global condemnation on the Jewish State for any potential fallout, including sky-rocketing oil prices and the possibility of Iranian missiles raining down on the entire region. Not to mention the fact that on its own, Israel does not have the capacity to attack Iran’s nuclear mountain bunkers, designed to withstand aerial strikes. 

The US does have the military capacity to penetrate the mountain bunkers, but it would never agree to join Israel in attacking Iran. For starters, doing so would mean the US would lose Israel as a scapegoat when matters hit the proverbial fan, and add that to the fact that striking Iran simply isn’t in the US’s interests. Distance between the two countries means that the threat is not nearly as imminent for the US, and further, the latter would never conceive of sparking Muslim wrath all over the world by taking military action anytime soon. 

Perhaps one or all four of the above options could have stood a chance 10 years ago, before the world’s dilly-dallying allowed Iran’s uranium enrichment to reach a white-knuckle 20 percent. Right now, all that is clear is that Netanyahu and Obama’s crudely staged public displays of affection are having little effect in procuring an actual, viable option to put on the ever-shrinking table.  


Related Content