Belittling Barack Obama’s comments on Israel and Iran (the leading headline in some of Israel’s newspapers, and the focus of an earlier post by Abe) is somewhat unfair. Clearly, he meant them to be supportive of Israel and to raise an alarm regarding the possibility that Iran will be able to achieve nuclear weapons.

However, something bothers me when I read Obama’s comments:

My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we’ve mobilized the world community to go after Iran’s program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation,” Obama said in response to a voter’s question at a campaign event in Iowa. “We’ve got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall.

So, the U.S. should make the world tighten the sanctions, and it should push Iran to make its “difficult calculation.” But why?Is it because Iran is dangerous? Is it because a nuclear Iran will destabilize the region and make life more difficult for any moderate Arab country? Is it because a nuclear Iran will put American interests in danger? Is it because Iran threatened to eliminate an ally (Israel)? Is it because containing Iran (Biden’s prescription if sanctions fail to achieve their goal) will be very difficult?

Obama would answer “yes,” I predict (and hope), to all of the above. However, his audience yesterday could have gotten the impression that Obama was warning not about the rogue state of Iran, but rather about the rogue state of Israel: let us convince the Iranians to behave, before those Israeli crazies do something foolish. (On the other hand: maybe it’s time for Israel to be seen as crazier. Apparently, it works miracles these days on the international stage).

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