Analysis: Barack, Bibi and the bomb

With another 4 years booked in the Oval Office one thing is for sure: Iran will be high Obama's agenda.

US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
With another four years booked in the Oval Office, Barack Obama will be weighing his options on the Middle East. He may decide to push Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to get the peace process back in motion, or, he may decide, having had his fingers burnt in his previous attempt at getting the sides to sit down together, to simply stay away from the conflict.
He may also decide – despite Rahm Emanuel’s assertions that there will be no revenge factor – that it’s “payback time” for Binyamin Netanyahu’s perceived intransigence on the Palestinian issue and interference in the US elections.
One thing though is for sure: Iran will be on the president's mind.
“It’s going to be very high on the agenda,” Martin Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, who is now the director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said yesterday of Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama, say Washington insiders, can be expected to give Iran a last chance to come to the negotiating table with a serious offer that will satisfy the Western powers – and Israel – that it has given up on any nuclear weapons ambition.
Obama could, despite Iran’s post-election protestations that “relations are not possible overnight,” even offer Tehran a “grand bargain” that includes renewed diplomatic ties between the countries.
The president, though, may not have time on his hands in his efforts to reach a diplomatic solution. With Netanyahu also likely to gain another term in January’s elections, Obama will be watching Israel’s nuclear Iran clock tick down.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threatClick here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
While the threat of an Israeli strike may have eased over the last couple of months, a reelected Netanyahu can be expected to turn the pressure back up. Netanyahu set his nuclear red line during a speech in late September before the UN General Assembly.
It would, said Netanyahu, be “next spring, next summer at most,” before Iran reaches the medium enrichment stage from which production of a nuclear bomb is no more than weeks or months away.
If Tehran drags its feet or refuses to play ball, Obama will be faced with a dilemma to continue the path of sanctions, exercise its own military option, or risk unilateral Israeli action. Indyk says he believes that if negotiations fail, Obama will use force to eliminate Tehran’s nuclear capability.
If Obama does decide on a strike, payback time may not be long in coming.
As Indyk put it, Obama will follow up on military action by saying, “Look I’ve dealt with the Iranian issue, now it’s your turn to make progress on the Palestinian issue.”