There has always been a contradiction between the Obama administration’s reluctance to state “red lines” on Iran and its tough talk about never allowing the Islamist regime to achieve their nuclear ambition. The president’s supporters have resolved this piece of cognitive dissonance—at least in their own minds—by sticking to the belief that sooner or later Tehran will yield to reason and start negotiating toward a compromise that the U.S. could live with even if such a deal might scare Israel. This assumption was based on the idea that sanctions are gradually bringing Iran to its knees and that its leaders are reasonable people who understand their position is unsustainable.
Given the Iranians’ record of intransigence and duplicity in diplomatic encounters, such assumptions were always more a matter of wishful thinking than serious analysis. But the latest rejection of an American attempt to reach out to Iran should conclusively demonstrate that any hope that sanctions or diplomacy will persuade Iran to back off on its nuclear quest is entirely unrealistic. The statement by the supreme leader of the regime, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the effect that he completely rejects any idea of direct talks on the nuclear question with the United States indicates that the latest bright idea about Iran hatched in the Obama administration was just as much a failure as its predecessors. Though some are interpreting the ayatollah’s statement solely through the prism of the power struggles inside Tehran, there should be no mistake about who is in charge and what his veto of new talks with the U.S. means.
In Israel this week, people are lining up for gas masks, a new Homeland Defense has been set to work to deal with the task of readying the country for the possibility of attacks from Iran, Lebanon and Gaza, and pundits are working overtime trying to figure out whether the nation’s political leadership is serious about launching a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities sometime this fall. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is doing his best to convince Americans that the saber-rattling coming out Jerusalem is not a bluff aimed at forcing the West to toughen sanctions on Iran or start making their own credible threats about using force. In interviews with journalists and an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week, Oren has made a powerful case about the existential threat that a nuclear Iran presents to Israel, but Washington may be listening more closely to those figures inside the Jewish state who are claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are begging to be talked out of an attack.
As the New York Times reported yesterday, Uzi Dayan, a former general who was asked to serve as Homeland Defense Minister, says his conversations with both Netanyahu and Barak led him to believe that the window of diplomacy with Iran that the Obama administration keeps talking about is still open. There are good reasons to believe the Israeli government would like nothing better than to have the war talk do what an earlier wave of speculation about a strike accomplished when Washington belatedly adopted a tougher sanctions policy. Jerusalem understands that even a successful strike on Iran will exact a terrible price in casualties and damage from counter-attacks from the Islamist regime and its terrorist allies. But those who assert that Netanyahu is just bluffing forget that Israeli anxiety is rooted as much in its lack of confidence in Washington as it is in knowledge of Iran’s genocidal ambitions.
One of the main talking points for apologists for Iran recently has been the claim that Supreme Leader Ali Khameini banned the production of nuclear weapons as a sin. This is supposed to calm the nerves of those who fear allowing the Islamist regime nuclear capability and has been accepted by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and other world leaders as a fact. But as Ruthie Blum points out in her column in Israel Hayom, the fatwa is a fake.
Blum reports that the indispensable Middle East media monitoring group MEMRI.org has examined the assertion that Iran has foresworn the development of nukes as a religious imperative and found that the fatwa is a myth. Khameini never issued such a ruling, and there is no record of it ever having been published except in a statement issued in 2005 by the Iranians during a meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This story has been revived recently–largely by Turkey, Iran’s off and on Islamist ally–but:
MEMRI’s investigation reveals that no such fatwa ever existed or was ever issued or published, and that media reports about it are nothing more than a propaganda ruse on the part of the Iranian regime apparatuses – in an attempt to deceive top U.S. administration officials and the others mentioned above.
This is not a minor point because, as Blum points out, the talk about the fatwa facilitates a dead-end P5+1 negotiating process that will “ make Western leaders feel better about letting precious time run out while the Islamic Republic races to reach nuclear hegemony.”