What was most noticed in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interview yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” was her seemingly bellicose warning to Iran that any nuclear attack on Israel would be treated as an attack on the United States. Some are interpreting this extension of America’s nuclear umbrella over the Jewish state as an expression of warm support that ought to reassure any Israelis nervous about Iran’s fast track into nuclear capability.
However, before we get all warm and fuzzy over Hillary’s reiteration of her presidential campaign rhetoric about defending Israel, let’s place this statement in the context of her current position and President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week. What was missing from both the Clinton statement and Obama’s speech was a declaration from the United States that Iran’s enrichment of uranium and, indeed, its drive for nuclear capability had to be stopped in its tracks. Instead, Obama merely mouthed some vague platitudes about non-proliferation while Clinton was jumping ahead to dealing with the policy implications of a situation in which Iran already had a nuclear weapon.
The point is that despite Obama’s campaign rhetoric about an Iranian nuke being a “game changer,” his administration has, in effect, already given up on trying to stop the game from irreversibly changing.
It is clear that these statements should give cold comfort to Israel or anyone who worries about the consequences of Tehran acquiring nuclear capability. Israel doesn’t want or need the United States to come to its rescue after an Iranian nuclear bomb has exploded. Sympathy or even retribution after another Holocaust would be pointless. What Israel and other countries rightfully fearing Iranian nukes need is American leadership for serious sanctions that will prevent such a weapon from ever being built. Since such a campaign is clearly off the table for Obama, the question then must be posed as to how he and Clinton plan to weasel out of their commitments to stopping Iran. The answer? They seem to be waiting and hoping for this week’s Iranian presidential election to produce a winner other than incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give them an excuse to back down even further.
Will it happen? Today’s New York Times feature on the election indicates that Mr. Hussein Moussavi, whom the paper described as a “reformer,” is leading in unofficial polls. While Moussavi, one of the few approved by the ruling Islamist mullahs to run for the post, does not appear to be any more moderate on the question of aiding terror, threatening Israel, or boosting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he may be a bit more presentable than the repulsive Ahmadinejad. In other words, while he may actually be a Holocaust denier, if elected, he may not talk much about it.
Though Iranians may be eager to seize any opportunity, even in these decidedly unfree elections, to show their dissatisfaction with the direction their country is taking, the distinctions between reformers and non-reformers in Iran have not been significant in terms of actual policy. But they may be sufficient for Obama and Clinton to justify their walking away from a policy for restraining Iran.