THE NIMITZ-CLASS aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis plod their way through the Persian Gulf in 2012. ‘Obama’s aversion to launching a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear sites is the result of America’s bitter experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq and Obama’s herculean effor.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘If the United States Congress unilaterally walks away from this arrangement that we have reached [with Iran]... we’re right back where we were and we’re going to head to conflict,” US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the House Foreign Relations Committee.
His boss President Barack Obama was even more emphatic. In an address at American University defending the Iran nuclear deal he said: “Let’s not mince words. The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.”
It goes without saying that when the Obama administration warns of a looming war if the Iran nuclear deal is rejected it means one triggered by an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. After all the president revealed Iran was only a few months away from the bomb and Israel has increasingly warned it will act to stop the mullahs. By comparison, Tehran is expected to play nice and refrain from any provocation which might ignite the region – at least so long as its working to develop its nuclear arsenal.
The Iran nuclear deal, it turns out, is primarily designed to block Israel, not Iran. Instead of the nuclear agreement being the goal, it has become a means to assert control over Israel’s military designs. Rather than working to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program the White House was looking for a diplomatic fix that will chiefly cut off Israel’s pathway to attack. In this Obama succeeded perfectly, or so he may hope. By deferring the date of Iran accumulating enough enriched uranium to cross the nuclear threshold Obama’s deal seemingly undermines any strategic rationale for Israel to attack in the foreseeable future. Moreover, by having the agreement backed by the world’s major powers, not to mention the UN Security Council, the Obama administration nullified any international legitimacy Jerusalem might have sought for such action.
Finally, by reaching a multi-year deal with the mullahs Obama is seeking to tie the hands of any future US administration that might entertain thoughts a la president Bush Sr. or his son who twice went to war to, among other things, disarm a dangerous enemy of his weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Obama’s objections to going after the Iranian nuclear program militarily were no secret. Numerous high ranking administration officials arrived in Israel to press for restraint. They questioned the effectiveness of a possible military action claiming it would only delay the Iranian program by a few years at most. Obama was also worried that US regional military deployments would come under retaliatory attacks. There was the specter of worldwide terrorist attacks against US interests. The potential consequences to the world economy of a fullscale war in the Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf area, were also cited as weighing on the president’s mind.
Most of all, Obama’s aversion to launching a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear sites is the result of America’s bitter experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq and Obama’s herculean efforts to distinguish himself from his predecessor – president George W. Bush. He is determined to reshape the role of military power in US foreign policy. Little wonder that his national security team is distrustful of the Pentagon’s top brass.
Time and again Obama announced that under his leadership the US will opt for diplomacy over military means and for coalition building over going it alone.
Moreover, he claimed, reaching even an imperfect agreement with a sworn enemy could signal progress, not capitulation.
Under these circumstances it is simply astounding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually believed he could press Obama into taking forceful action against Iran’s nuclear program. If anything Israel’s efforts backfired. The closer Iran came to the bomb and the more urgent Netanyahu’s admonitions became the greater was Obama’s determination to reach a deal with Tehran that would block Israel and prevent a regional conflagration.
In contrast, the mullahs hand no such misconceptions about Obama. For example, in the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, the United States intelligence community assessed “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” Undoubtedly Tehran was concerned that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on America and given the massive US military presence across the border in Iraq the Bush administration would be tempted to reapply its new policy of forcefully disarming extremist regimes of their WMDs and attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
However given Obama’s recent revelation of how close Iran is to the bomb it transpires that the Iranian program resumed after he took office.
The mullahs’ understanding of Obama’s true motives is also indicated by recent reports stating the “US intelligence community” has informed Congress that Iran began sanitizing its suspected nuclear military site at Parchin (located about 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran) soon after the nuclear deal was signed and in full view of US spy satellites. Bloomberg View on August 11 quoted Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker as saying:“The intel briefing was troubling to me...some of the things that are happening [at Parchin], especially happening in such a blatant way...Iran is going to know that we know.”
Yet in Jerusalem they are still hoping Washington would pull the chestnuts out of the Iranian “fire” for Israel. Netanyahu is now fully engaged in attempting to convince the US Congress to disapprove the agreement with Iran. This effort will likely prove futile given Obama’s vow to veto any such measure. The coming legislative failure would underscore what the Obama administration’s Iran maneuver proves conclusively: on the existential topic of Iran’s nuclear weapons Israel stands alone.
It turns out Tuco Ramirez, the Mexican bandit of the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, was right all along.
After finishing off his would-be killer he famously quipped: “When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk.”The writer is the author of The Continuing Storm: Iraq, Poisonous Weapons and Deterrence (Yale University Press).