The first rule of strategy is to keep your opponent busy attending to your
agenda so he has no time to advance his own. Unfortunately, Israel’s leaders
seem unaware of this rule, while Iran’s rulers triumph in its
Over the past few weeks, Israel has devoted itself entirely
to the consideration of questions that are, at best, secondary. Questions like
how much additional assistance Israel should provide Hamas-controlled Gaza, and
how best to fend off or surrender to the international diplomatic lynch mob have
dominated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s and his senior ministers’ agendas.
Our political leaders – as well as our military commanders and intelligence
agencies – have been so busy thinking about these issues that they have
effectively forgotten the one issue that they should have been
Israel’s greatest strategic challenge – preventing Iran from
acquiring nuclear weapons – has fallen by the wayside.
In the shadow of
our distraction, Iran and its allies operate undisturbed. Indeed, as our leaders
have devoted themselves entirely to controlling the damage from the
Iranian-supported, Turkish- Hamas flotilla, Iran and its allies have had a
terrific past few weeks.
True, Wednesday the UN Security Council passed a
new sanctions resolution against Iran for refusing to end its illicit uranium
enrichment program. But that Security Council resolution itself is emblematic of
It took a year for US President Barack Obama to decide
that he should seek additional sanctions against Iran. It then took him another
six months to convince Iran’s allies Russia and China to support the sanctions.
In the event, the sanctions that Obama refers to as “the most comprehensive
sanctions that the Iranian government has faced,” will have no impact whatsoever
on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
They will not empower the Iranian
people to overthrow their regime. And they will not cause the Iranian regime to
reconsider its nuclear weapons program. They won’t even prevent Russia from
supplying Iran with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to protect its nuclear
installations from air assault.
THOSE LONG-awaited and utterly worthless
sanctions underline the fact that life is terrific these days for Iran’s leaders
and their allies. A year ago, the Iranian regime was hanging by a thread. After
stealing the presidential elections last June 12, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his
boss Ali Khamenei required the assistance of all their regime goons to put down
the popular revolt against them. Indeed, they needed to import Hizbullah goons
from Lebanon to protect themselves and their regime from their own people.
European leaders like French President Nicolas Sarkozy were openly supporting
the Iranian people as they announced their intention to overthrow the
But then Obama sided with the regime against its domestic,
democratic opposition. Intent on giving his appeasement policy a whirl, Obama
took several days to express even the mildest support for the Iranian people. In
the meantime, his spokesman continued to refer to the regime as the “legitimate”
government of Iran.
Obama’s support for Ahmadinejad forced European
leaders like Sarkozy to temper their support for the anti-regime activists. Even
worse, by keeping the democracy protesters at arm’s length, Obama effectively
gave a green light to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to resort to brute force against
them. That is, by failing to back the democracy protesters, Obama convinced the
regime it could get away with murdering scores of them, and torturing thousands
A year on, although the regime’s opponents seethe under the
surface, with no leader and no help from the free world, it will take a miracle
for them to mount major protests on the one-year anniversary of the stolen
elections. It is unimaginable that they will be able to topple the regime before
it gets its hands on nuclear weapons.
A year ago Ahmadinejad was afraid
to show his face in public. But this week he received a hero’s welcome in
Istanbul. He had a bilateral meeting there not only with Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
the past year Iran has deepened its strategic ties with China and Russia. It has
developed an open strategic alliance with Turkey. It has expanded its strategic
web of alliances in Latin America. Now in addition to Venezuela, Nicaragua,
Ecuador and Bolivia, Iran counts Brazil among its allies.
THEN THERE is
Lebanon. Like the regime in Teheran, Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hizbullah lost the
Lebanese elections last June. And like the regime in Teheran, Hizbullah was able
to use force and the threat of force to not only strong-arm its way back into the
Lebanese government, but to guarantee itself control over the Lebanese
Now in control, with Iranian and Syrian support, Hizbullah
has an arsenal of 42,000 missiles with ranges that cover all of
Then, too, Hizbullah’s diplomatic situation has never been
better. This week former US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker called for the US to
initiate a policy of diplomatic outreach to the Iranian-controlled illegal
terrorist group. Ryan is the second prominent US official, after Obama’s chief
counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, to call for the US to accept Hizbullah as
a legitimate actor in the region.
As for Syria, it too has only benefited
from its alliance with Iran. The Obama administration has waived several trade
sanctions against Damascus.
As it battles the Senate to confirm its
choice for US ambassador to Syria, the administration has become the regime’s
Assuming the Senate drops its opposition, Syria will receive
the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years as it defies the International
Atomic Energy Agency and openly proliferates nuclear technology. Today Syria is
both rebuilding its illicit nuclear reactor at Dar Alzour that Israel reportedly
destroyed on Sept. 6, 2007 and building additional nuclear
Luckily for Bashar Assad, the IAEA is too busy trying to
coerce Israel into agreeing to international inspections of its legal nuclear
installations to pay any attention. Since June 2008, the IAEA has carried out no
inspections in Syria.
AND THAT’S the heart of the matter. The main reason
that the past year has been such a good one for Iran and its allies is because
they have managed to keep Israel so busy fending off attacks that Jerusalem has
had no time to weaken them in any way.
It is true that much of the fault
here belongs to the US. Since entering office, Obama has demonstrated daily that
his first priority in the Middle East is to force Israel to make concessions to
the Palestinians. As for Iran, Obama’s moves to date make clear that his goal is
not to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Rather, it is to avoid being
blamed for Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Moreover, Obama has used
Iran’s nuclear weapons program – and vague promises to do something about it –
as a means of coercing Israel into making unreciprocated concessions to the
The problem is that despite overwhelming evidence that
Obama is fundamentally not serious about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons, Israel’s leaders have played along with him. And in so doing they have
lost control over their time and their agenda.
When Obama first came into
office, he was committed to three things: appeasing Iran, attacking Israel for
constructing homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, and condemning Israel for
refusing to support the establishment of a Palestinian state.
only partially dissuaded from appeasing Iran when Ahmadinejad rejected his offer
to enrich uranium for the mullahs last December. As for his other goals, he
coerced Netanyahu into agreeing to support Palestinian statehood last June and
coerced him into ending Jewish home building in Judea and Samaria last
Ahmadinejad’s rejection of Obama’s outstretched hand forced
Obama to launch his halfhearted drive for worthless UN sanctions. But he used
this bid to coerce Israel into making still more unreciprocated concessions.
After pocketing the prohibition on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria,
Obama moved on to Jerusalem.
From there he moved to forcing Israel to
accept indirect negotiations with the Palestinians through his hostile envoy
George Mitchell. And once he had pocketed that concession, he began pressuring
Israel to surrender its purported nuclear arsenal.
Following that, he has
moved on to his current position of pressuring Israel to accept a hostile
international investigation of the navy’s enforcement of Israel’s lawful
blockade of the Gaza coast. He also seeks to weaken Israel’s blockade of
Hamas-controlled Gaza and force Israel to accept a massive infusion of US
assistance to Hamas-controlled Gaza.
This last Obama action plan was made
explicit on Wednesday when the US president announced that his administration
would give $400 million in assistance to Gaza, despite the fact that doing so
involves providing material aid to an illegal terrorist organization controlled
OBAMA’S ACTIONS are clearly disturbing, but as disturbing as
they are, they are not Israel’s main problem. Iran’s nuclear program is Israel’s
main problem. And Netanyahu, his senior cabinet ministers and the IDF high
command should not be devoting their precious time to dealing with Obama and his
To free himself and Israel’s other key
decisionmakers to contend with Iran, Netanyahu must outsource the handling of
the Palestinian issue, the Obama administration and all the issues arising from
both. He must select someone outside active politics to serve as his special
envoy for this purpose.
Netanyahu’s envoy’s position should be the mirror
image of Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s role. He should be
suite of fancy offices, several deputies and aides and spokesmen, and a
hand in talking with the Palestinians and the Obama administration until
cows come home.
In the meantime, Netanyahu and his senior cabinet
ministers and advisers must devote themselves to battling Iran. They
merely prepare to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
They must prepare
the country to weather the Iranian counter-attack that will surely
Those preparations involve not only fortifying Israel’s home
front. Netanyahu and his people must prepare a diplomatic and legal
against Iran and its allies in the lead-up, and aftermath, of an Israeli
The most obviously qualified person to fill this vital role
is former defense minister Moshe Arens.
Aren has the experience, wisdom
and gravitas to handle the job. Bereft of all political ambitions, Arens
in no way pose a threat to Netanyahu’s leadership.
chooses, he must choose quickly. His failure to bear in mind the first
strategy places Israel in greater and greater peril with each passing
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