President Obama’s apparent desire to move forcefully against Iran with new sanctions within weeks, not months, makes me wonder if he is calculating that he will be in a better position to put some real pressure on Israel, and possibly bring about regime change there, if he can successfully bully Iran into playing the game his way. If that is what Obama is thinking, he could be setting himself up (or is being set up?) for another humiliation.
On one level of argument there is a case for saying that if he could persuade Tehran to meet his requirements on the development of its nuclear program, he could then say to Israel something very like, “I’ve neutralized the Iranian threat, now you must give an absolute priority to making peace with the Palestinians.”
Leaving aside for the moment the matter of Iran’s response to more aggressive bullying, the problem with that way of thinking is what it ignores. Israel’s leaders and AIPAC are playing up the Iranian threat not because they truly believe that a nuclear armed Iran would pose a threat to the Zionist state’s existence, but because it, the asserted threat, is an effective way of limiting the White House’s freedom to pressure Israel. The point?
Even if Obama did succeed in getting what he wants from Iran, that would not improve his chances of bringing Israel to heel, with or without regime change. So from that perspective, Obama would end up being humiliated again. But there is a much worse, even catastrophic scenario.
What if moving quickly and forcefully with new sanctions on Iran did not bring about a policy change in Tehran?
Obama would then have painted himself into a corner where his options would be either to say, in effect, “We’ve got to live with the fact that Iran might possess nuclear weapons,” or to give Israel the green light to attack Iran and risk the U.S. being drawn into a war which might not end until the whole Middle East was in flames and the global economy had been completely wrecked.
That would be quite some miscalculation.