Commentary Magazine


U.S.-Israel Split on Iran Assassinations?

Earlier today, I noted the skewed morality of left-wing writers in general, and Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, in particular, who consider the mysterious deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists to be an act of terrorism. Quite the contrary, I think it’s clear the Iranians are the terrorists and it is the duty of both the United States and Israel to do anything in their power to pre-empt Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. But it’s worth adding to the discussion that it appears President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are eager to avoid being labeled terrorists by left-wing pundits. The United States has not only disavowed any participation in attacks on Iranian nuclear personnel but went so far as to actually condemn the killing.

Given that this administration has fully embraced the doctrine of targeted killings of terrorists and regards drone strikes against individuals and groups that Washington deems bad guys, its scruples about knocking off people involved in a project that would give the ayatollahs the ability to pull off a second Holocaust seems curious. The reasons U.S. officials have given for their opposition to the assassinations also fall flat.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. opposes any such attacks because they “could backfire by undercutting future negotiations and prompting Iran to redouble what the West suspects is a quest for a nuclear capacity.”

First of all, the entire notion that “future negotiations” have any chance of getting Iran to back down from the nuclear brink is entirely without foundation. Iran’s only motive in allowing the administration to believe in the possibility of such talks is to string them along and thereby allow their nuclear scientists more time to perfect their plans. The idea that they would “redouble” their quest is also farcical because Iran is already going all out to achieve this goal. The only thing that will convince the Iranians to give up their dream of a bomb is to both enact and enforce crippling sanctions such as an oil embargo that could bring their economy to halt or to use force.

Given the adamant nature of the administration’s denials about the assassinations, this is probably no ruse. But if the U.S. is not helping Israel in its alleged efforts to make it more difficult for the Iranian scientific community to work on the nuclear project, it may be one more sign that Obama is not really serious about stopping Iran. This could well be one more signal that, the president’s rhetoric notwithstanding, Israel is being left alone to face this deadly threat to its existence. It may well be we will now hear more from the left about labeling Israel a terrorist state because of the Iranian nuclear scientists. But as with many other instances in which its right to self-defense has been attacked, Israel’s leaders will likely choose to risk the name-calling if it means that measures they have undertaken will significantly reduce the threat to their nation.