Team Obama and crunch time on Tehran
US President Barack Obama promises “no daylight” between the US and Israel when it comes to stopping Iran's nuclear bomb-making. But it is unlikely the US will launch military moves against Iran.
US President Obama at White House Rose Garden Photo: Yuri Gripas / Reuters
Amid his election campaign, US President Barack Obama promised “no daylight”
between the US and Israel when it comes to stopping Iran's nuclear bomb-making.
Many hope this pledge will be kept, but it is unlikely the US will launch
military moves against Iran.
Previous US presidents who were more
committed to use of US force abroad – Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and both
presidents Bush – did not employ force to protect Israel when it was attacked or
isolated, and shied away from confrontations with Iran and Syria.
not even send an armada to open waterways closed by Egypt in 1967, though LBJ
was quite pro-Israel.
Reagan attacked Libya in a raid after a Libyan-aided
terror attack on US forces in Germany, but he pulled out of Lebanon rather than
respond to attacks backed by Hezbollah and Syria in which hundreds of Americans
and French soldiers were killed, and he actually reached out to Iran in the
complicated Iran-Contra arms deal.
George HW Bush pressed Israel not to
attack Iraq even when it attacked Israel in 1991, and George W Bush preferred
that Israel itself deal with Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007.
Talmudists might say, if such extroverted interventionists did not use massive
force, Obama is certainly not going to use massive force.
Another way to
see this is to look at the team Obama has assembled to deal with issues of
terror, use of force and Iran. They reflect Obama’s views: Wendy Sherman, under
secretary of state, leads talks with the Iranians. Sherman has been as
successful there as she was a decade ago heading Bill Clinton’s efforts to stop
North Korea’s atomic bombs. David Ignatius of the Washington Post has said her
talks “have produced little beyond an exchange of paper.” Sherman’s background
in social work and a stint running the Fannie Mae Foundation clearly impressed
both Iran and the Koreans.
ATTORNEY GENERAL Eric Holder often seems like
he wants to make America a safer place for terrorists. Whether it is
trying to close down the Guantanamo base in Cuba and bringing terrorists to
trial in downtown NY, or moving strongly to investigate CIA agents who
interrogated terrorists, Holder often makes observers wonder whether he forgot
on which side of the terror problem he was supposed to be working.
he was in the Clinton Justice Department, Holder toiled to get pardons for
convicted Puerto Rican terrorists – pardons opposed by the rest of the Justice
Department. Holder often acts as if he were still serving as a partner at the
far-left law firm of Covington-Burling, which does pro-bono work for terrorist
inmates at Guantanamo.
Holder led Obama’s efforts to give terrorists more
legal redress than drug smugglers facing police in NY or Texas. He gave the
“Underwear Bomber” his Miranda Rights, and he imposed the Army Field Manual as
the way to question terrorists.
This means suspected terrorist murderers
are treated not just like local kids who boost a car, but more like uniformed
combatants – like officers and gentlemen who just happen to be not uniformed,
not gentlemen but most assuredly the kind of enemies who like destroying
airports and cities.
Tom Donilon, national security adviser, is a career
political activist and lobbyist. Like Sherman and Obama, he has helped and been
helped by Fannie Mae, the housing loan giant at the heart of the housing finance
bubble. Obama has sent him a few times to tell the Israelis not to bomb
Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s top adviser, is the inner-voice of Obama.
It is nice to know that as Obama wonders what to do or – more likely, not to do
about Iran – he can call on someone who was born and has lived there. Jarrett
has also served as Obama’s emissary to the US Muslims, including wealthy donors
from the Iranian community. Jarrett has strong views on national security, and
she did not like General James Jones, the first Obama national security adviser,
reportedly pushing him aside for Tom Donilon.
ON THE day after Iran and
Hezbollah engineered an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, Jarrett hosted a
gathering of Iranian activists (some not US citizens) at the White House. The
New York Times later quoted an unnamed White House official as saying that the
attack in Bulgaria was “tit for tat” in response to supposed Israeli attacks on
Iranian nuclear scientists.
So, military help on Iran from almost any US
president was always an unlikely option, but expecting such help from the Obama
White House is outright fantasy.
The Obama Administration is floating
stories that Iran has been so hard-hit by sanctions that its hungry population
will rise up in anger and overthrow the bomb-making ayatollah. Don’t bet on
Tens of thousands of North Koreans actually died of famine, but North
Korea still got its bomb and then used it as a bargaining chip to get the West
to give them food aid.
The writer, an expert on Arab politics and
communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the
Terror Threat just published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He is a former
reporter, correspondent and editor respectively at The New York Times, Cox
Newspapers, and The Jerusalem Post, and he served strategic affairs adviser in
Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and as an adviser to Israeli negotiating
teams in 1991-92 at the Madrid Summit and thereafter.