Israel’s leaders are reportedly concerning themselves with one question today. Are there any circumstances in which US President Barack Obama will order the US military to strike Iran’s nuclear installations before Iran develops a nuclear arsenal? From Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu down the line, Israel’s leaders reportedly raise this question with just about everyone they come into contact with. If this is true, then the time has come to end our leaders’ suspense.
The answer is no.
For all intents and purposes, there are no circumstances in which Obama
would order an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent Iran
from developing and fielding nuclear weapons. Exceptions to this
statement fall into two categories: Either they are so implausible that
they are operationally irrelevant, or they are so contingent on other
factors that they would doom any US attack to failure.
Evidence for this conclusion is found in every aspect of Obama’s foreign
policy. But to prove it, it is sufficient to point out point three
aspects of his policies.
First of all, Obama refuses to recognize that an Iranian nuclear arsenal
constitutes a clear and present danger to US national security.
Obama’s discussions of the perils of a nuclear Iran are limited to his
acknowledgement that such an arsenal will provoke a regional nuclear
arms race. This is certainly true. But then, that arms race has already
begun. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the UAE and Kuwait have all
announced their intentions to build nuclear reactors. In some cases they
have signed deals with foreign countries to build such facilities.
And yet, while a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is bad, it is far
from the worst aspect of Iran’s nuclear program for America.
America has two paramount strategic interests in the Middle East. First,
the US requires the smooth flow of inexpensive petroleum products from
the Persian Gulf to global oil markets.
Second, the US requires the capacity to project its force in the region
to defend its own territory from global jihadists.
Both of these interests are imperiled by the Iranian nuclear program. If
the US is not willing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,
it will lose all credibility as a strategic ally to the Sunni Arab
states in the area.
For instance, from a Saudi perspective, a US that is unwilling to
prevent the ayatollahs from fielding nuclear weapons is of no more use
to them than Britain or China or France. It is just another
oil-consuming country. The same goes for the rest of the states in the
Gulf and in the region.
The Arab loss of faith in US security guarantees will cause them to deny
basing rights to US forces in their territories. It will also likely
lead them to bow to Iranian will on oil pricesetting through supply
cutbacks. In light of this, the Iranian nuclear program constitutes the
greatest threat ever to US superpower status in the region and to the
well-being of the US economy.
Then there is the direct threat that Iran’s nuclear program constitutes
for US national security. This threat grows larger by the day as Iran’s
web of strategic alliances in Latin America expands unchallenged by the
US. Today Iran enjoys military alliances with Venezuela, Nicaragua,
Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia.
As former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton has argued, at least the
Soviets were atheists. Atheists of course, are in no hurry to die, since
death can bring no rewards in a world to come. Iran’s leaders are
apocalyptic jihadists. Given Iran’s Latin American alliances and Iran’s
own progress toward intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, the
prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran makes the Cuban missile crisis look
like a walk in the park.
In the face of this grave and gathering threat, Obama canceled plans to
deploy antiballistic missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic.
He has shunned the pro-American Honduran and Colombian governments in
favor of Nicaragua and Venezuela. He has welcomed Brazil’s anti-American
president to the White House. He cancelled the F-22.
THE FACT that Obama fails to recognize the danger an Iranian nuclear
arsenal poses to the US does not in and of itself prove that Obama would
not attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
After all, the US has fought many wars and launched countless campaigns
in its history against foes that posed no direct threat to the US. In
most of these cases, the US has fought on behalf of its allies.
In the case of Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, because the Iranians
have openly placed Israel first on their nuclear targeting list, US
debate about Iran’s nuclear program has been anchored around the issue
of Israel’s national security. Should the US attack Iran’s nuclear
installations in order to defend Israel? Given the distorted manner in
which the debate has been framed, the answer to that question hinges on
Obama’s view of Israel.
Three recent moves by Obama and his advisers make clear that Obama takes
a dim view of Israel. He views Israel as neither a credible ally nor a
First, there is the character of current US military assistance to
Israel and to its neighbors.
In recent months, the Obama administration has loudly announced its
intentions to continue its joint work with Israel toward the development
and deployment of defensive anti-missile shields. Two things about
these programs are notable. First, they are joint initiatives.
Just as Israel gains US financing, the US gains Israeli technology that
it would otherwise lack. Second, as Globes reported last week, Obama has
actually scaled back US funding for these programs. For instance,
funding for the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile program – intended to
serve as Israel’s primary defensive system against Iranian ballistic
missiles – was cut by $50 million.
The defensive character of all of these programs signals an absence of
US support for maintaining Israel’s capacity to preemptively strike its
enemies. When the Pentagon’s refusal to permit Israel to install its own
avionics systems on the next generation F-35 warplanes is added to the
mix, it is difficult to make the argument that the US supports Israel’s
qualitative edge over its enemies in any tangible way.
An assessment that the US has abandoned its commitment to Israel’s
qualitative edge is strengthened by the administration’s announcement
this week of its plan to sell Saudi Arabia scores of F-15 and F-16
fighter jets for an estimated $30 billion. While the US has pledged to
remove systems from the Saudi aircraft that pose direct threats to
Israel, once those jets arrive in the kingdom, the Saudis will be able
to do whatever they want with them. If one adds to this equation the
reduced regional stature of the US in an Iranian nuclear age, it is
clear that these guarantees have little meaning.
Obama’s moves to reduce Israel’s offensive capacity and slow its
acquisition of defensive systems goes hand in hand with his rejection of
Israel’s right to self-defense and dismissive attitude toward Israel’s
rule of law. These positions have been starkly demonstrated in his
administration’s treatment of Israel in the wake of the IDF’s takeover
of the Turkish- Hamas Mavi Marmara terror ship on May 31.
In the face of that blatant display of Turkish aggression against Israel
as it maintained its lawful maritime blockade of Hamas-controlled
Gaza’s coastline, Obama sided with Turkey and Hamas against Israel.
Obama demanded that Israel investigate its handling of the incident.
Moreover, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Israel was
incapable of credibly investigating itself, and so required Israel to
add non-Israeli members to its investigative committee.
Yet even Israel’s acceptance of this US humiliation was insufficient for
Obama. His UN envoy Susan Rice then demanded that Israel accept a UN
investigative panel that is charged with checking to see if the Israeli
committee has done its job. And if the UN panel rejects the Israeli
commission’s findings, it is empowered to begin its own investigation.
As to the UN, as former Obama and Clinton administration officials Ray
Takeyh and Steven Simon explained in an article in the Washington Post
last week, Obama’s national security strategy effectively revolves
around subordinating US national security policy to the UN Security
Council. In the remote scenario that Obama decided to use force against
Iran, his subservience to the UN would rule out any possibility of a
Although in theory the US military’s capacity to strike Iran’s nuclear
facilities is much greater than Israel’s, given its practical inability
to launch a surprise attack, in practice it may be much smaller.
All of these factors constitute overwhelming evidence that there are no
conceivable circumstances under which Obama would order a US strike on
Iran’s nuclear installations to forestall Iran’s development of nuclear
weapons. And this reality should lead Israel’s leaders to three separate
FIRST, AND most urgently, Israel must attack Iran’s nuclear
installations. Iran’s nuclear ambitions must be set back at least until
2017, the latest date at which a new – and hopefully more rational – US
administration will certainly be in office.
Second, given the fact that the US will not take action against Iran’s
nuclear installations, there is no reason for Israel to capitulate to US
pressure on lesser issues. The Obama administration has nothing to
offer Israel on this most important threat, and so Israel should not do
anything to strengthen its position. Among other things, this conclusion
has clear implications for Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and
Jerusalem, Israel’s future responses to Lebanese aggression, and
Israel’s continued cooperation with the UN probes of the Turkish- Hamas
Finally, Obama’s behavior is a clear indication that Israel was wrong to
allow itself to become militarily dependent on US military platforms.
Former defense minister Moshe Arens wrote recently that Israel should
strongly consider abandoning plans to purchase the F-35 and restore the
scrapped Lavi jetfighter to active development. Arens suggested that in
doing so, Israel may find willing collaborators in the Indians, the
French and even the Russians.
No, the US has not become Israel’s enemy – although the Obama
administration has certainly struck an adversarial chord. Polling data
suggests that most Americans disagree with Obama’s treatment of Israel
and recognize that Iran is a threat to the US.
But polls aside, the answer to Israel’s desperate queries is that it is
up to us. If the Obama administration teaches us anything, it teaches us
that we must rely first and foremost on email@example.com