Commentary Magazine


The Distracted President, the Frustrated Prime Minister

You can imagine Bibi Netanyahu’s frustration: a nuclear-armed Iran is perhaps only a year away and all Obama wants to talk about is Jerusalem housing and proximity talks with intransigent Palestinians who are utterly unprepared for a “peace” deal. As this report makes clear, Bibi is struggling to get the American president to focus on the real issue:

“If you stop Iran from importing refined petroleum — that’s a fancy word for gasoline — then Iran simply doesn’t have refining capacity and this regime comes to a halt,” Netanyahu said on the morning [ABC Good Morning] program.

The U.S. is leading a push in the United Nations to apply another round of sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop it from pursuing a nuclear program that Western nations believe is aimed at building atomic weapons.

Tehran says its program is designed to produce electricity for civilian use.

Calling the standoff with Iran “the biggest issue facing our times,” Netanyahu said the international community could deliver “crippling sanctions,” without the support of China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“You’re left doing it outside the Security Council,” Netanyahu said. “There’s a coalition of the willing and you can have very powerful sanctions.”

Asked whether Obama had given assurances Washington would go along with refined oil sanctions and other restrictions, Netanyahu said: “What the United States has said is that they’re determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and I think that’s an important statement.”

Well, that’s a “no” on oil sanctions, obviously. Obama is getting little push-back domestically for his lackadaisical attitude, and Bibi is having little success redirecting the Obami, who don’t have a real answer to the dilemma of Iran. So naturally, they’d rather talk about virtually anything else and spend their time on eye-catching summits. What is missing is that sense of urgency one would expect from an administration facing the most perilous national security challenge in a generation. But I suppose they don’t see it that way.