Commentary Magazine


Onward to Carterville

Eli Lake has, as he so often does, an important report out today on what appears to be the Obama administration’s desire to end, or at least threaten to end, the United States’ longstanding support for Israel’s nuclear ambiguity. This apparently is intended to complement outreach to Iran. Color me puzzled.

It’s hard to see how pressuring Israel over its weapons will generate leverage against Iran’s weapons, or how Tehran would value a “nuclear-free Middle East” more than a Middle East in which both Iran and Israel are nuclear powers. Or perhaps Obama believes that if the U.S. demonstrates even-handedness in scrutinizing Middle East nuclear programs, Iran will be more willing to negotiate away its own program.

The Iranians must be watching the spectacle of the Obama administration dragging Israeli nukes into the open with amazement. What could be better for Iran than somebody else’s weapons becoming the object of international attention? It was always probable that Iran, in the unlikely event that it succumbed to pressure, would demand a “nuclear-free Middle East” as a last-gasp bargaining position — but who could have expected that the Obama administration would make Iran’s case for it, and long before Iran was in a position to need to do so?

We also see in Lake’s report the emergence in Obama’s foreign policy of that acute strain of Carterism that cannot tell a friend from an enemy:

Bruce Riedel, a former senior director for the Middle East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, said, “If you’re really serious about a deal with Iran, Israel has to come out of the closet. A policy based on fiction and double standards is bound to fail sooner or later. What’s remarkable is that it’s lasted so long.” Mr. Riedel headed the Obama administration’s review of strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan

Ah yes, double standards — they do terribly offend the delicate code of international justice to which the Islamic Republic of Iran adheres. And besides, what does it matter that one country is a democracy and a close ally and the other is a terrorist theocracy and sworn enemy? The important thing is even-handedness.

Khamenei and the boys must be marveling at all of this.