Haaretz quotes an unnamed source in the Obama camp who claims that President Obama will offer Israel protection under America’s “nuclear umbrella,” and respond to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel with a devastating nuclear counterstrike on Iran. Observers on the Right are taking this as a sure indication that Obama is resigned to Iran’s eventually attaining nuclear weapons.
Obama may very well have accepted a nuclear Iran as inevitable, but this pledge to Israel does not necessarily signal as much. In fact, this is known to have been Hillary Clinton’s stated position on the matter, so anyone who supported Hillary for Secretary of State should be neither surprised nor dismayed. In April, she told Good Morning America that the U.S. would “totally obliterate” Iran in response to an Iranian attack on Israel. At the time, hawkish conservatives considered her statement reassuring; Obama’s implementation of it as policy should not automatically create the opposite impression in the same circle.
Currently, U.S. foreign policy toward Iran consists of dotting every useless i and crossing every ineffective t. The Bush administration has, of late, engaged in diplomatic efforts it knows full well to be pure theater. The idea is that should the U.S. decide to strike Iran in order to check its nuclear development, Washington has to be able to make the case that every measure short of the military option has been attempted. Surely, formally letting Iran know that an attack on Israel would spur a nuclear response from the U.S. has always been on the to-do list of gestures. Again, this isn’t to say Obama is building a case to support a pre-emptive attack, but to suggest that this move doesn’t prove he’s not.