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Can Obama Admit Iran Diplomacy Failed?

Earlier this week White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated the administration’s mantra about Iran, saying there was still “time and space” for a diplomatic solution to be found to resolve the impasse over its nuclear threat. While no one, not even the president’s loyalists actually believe there is even the slightest hope for diplomacy or sanctions to work, the White House is publicly clinging to this position since the alternative is unthinkable. By that I don’t refer to how unthinkable it would be for the future of the world for the ayatollahs to get their hands on a nuclear weapon. From the point of view of the administration, what is truly unthinkable is the prospect of being forced to admit that it has been wrong all along about Iran and must change course in order to avoid a catastrophe.

The spectacle of the administration standing by its determination to keep talking with Iran long after Tehran effectively scuttled the P5+1 nuclear talks has to be discouraging to Israel’s government and can, in no small measure, be the reason why the Jewish state seems to be bubbling over with speculation about an attack on Iran sometime before the U.S. presidential election. With even U.S. intelligence now finally admitting that Iran is working on a bomb and with the Islamist regime making it clear it has no interest in agreeing to a compromise agreement on the issue, those trusted with defending Israel’s existence may be rapidly coming to the conclusion that they have no alternative but to strike soon before it is too late. Though foreign policy realists and other Israel critics are denouncing the Israeli threats, the only way to convince Jerusalem to stand down and follow America’s lead is for President Obama to start speaking honestly about the failure of his belated attempt to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambition. In the absence of such honesty, there is little reason for Prime Minister Netanyahu to go on waiting until the danger cannot be averted.

Israelis are understandably divided on the wisdom of acting on their own since they, and not the United States, would pay the highest price in terms of casualties and terror attacks that would likely follow a strike on Iran. Everyone, including Netanyahu’s critics and opponents of a unilateral strike, seem to agree that a U.S.-led action would be ideal. But the lack of confidence in the willingness of President Obama to act may leave Netanyahu and his cabinet no choice. Even after the issuing of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that is more realistic about the Iranian threat, the Americans are still acting as if they have all the time in the world to decide to do something about this peril. By contrast, the Israelis know that by next year, the Iranians may have refined more uranium and stored it in underground bunkers that may be impervious to Israel’s attack capabilities.

While reports about Israel telling the U.S. it needs to know by September 25 whether the U.S. will take action are unconfirmed, Netanyahu’s decision must be influenced by his confidence level in Obama’s willingness to take action. Should he wait until after November, it may turn out to be too late to make a difference. Even more worrisome is the notion that a re-elected Obama cannot be relied upon to make good on his promise to stop Iran.

Those who are calling on Israel to lower the temperature on the war talk are addressing their entreaties to the wrong capital. The only way to calm down Israel is for Barack Obama to start speaking the truth about Iran. Since there seems little chance of that happening, expect to hear even more talk of war emanating from Israel in the coming weeks and months.



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