U.S. Knows Iran Is Lying, but Chooses Diplomacy Over Force

Israel views Washington’s reluctance to confront Iran as weakness, but not even the seized Iranian-supplied rockets will change Obama's mind.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The much-mocked media spectacle Israel created last week over a ship it seized in the Red Sea actually had one practical, positive result. On Monday, five days after Israeli naval commandos commandeered the Klos C, which was carrying weapons to Gaza, the White House finally made a statement condemning Iran for trying to “supply terrorist organizations operating in the region with weaponry.” Despite criticism of Israeli media coverage of the event as excessive, especially from foreign journalists based here, the Hasbara crowed was quite satisfied with the international press given to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

The Israeli claim, according to Major General (Res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security bureau, is that “micro is macro.” In other words, the fact that Iran supplies weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza and Lebanon proves that the Islamic Republic continues to advance its nuclear program. Deception here spells deception there. If the Revolutionary Guard wrote up a counterfeit manifest to disguise the ship’s true port of origin, it’s safe to assume that the Iranians are lying when they deny the existence of a comprehensive weapons program aimed at developing nuclear warheads. Unlike the air strikes on weapons convoys sent from Iran to Syria and Hezbollah, about which Israel remains silent, Israel can take pride in the naval operation. This is why the ceremony in Eilat was held, even if it was many days after the initial reports of the operation.

The trouble with Israel’s argument is not that the Americans don’t believe it, but rather that they’re not really interested. The Obama administration knows that Iran is lying, that it continues to fund terror and that it’s a safe bet Iranian leaders regularly try to deceive the West while continuing to advance the nuclear program. The rift between Washington and Jerusalem over Iran runs deeper than that. U.S. President Barack Obama is fundamentally opposed to Netanyahu’s view that the way to get Iran to make serious concessions is Israeli or American military action, or at least the constant threat of action. The U.S. has returned to diplomacy with Iran, and that’s where it intends to stay.

From the Israeli point of view, that’s weakness — both in diplomatic thinking and action. Weakness not only on Iran, but also on the ongoing massacres in Syria and political upheaval throughout the rest of the Arab world. Washington’s reluctance when it comes to confrontation is evident with Russia as well, both in the Ukrainian crisis and in the Middle East. The U.S. isn’t pressuring Russia to cease its aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is one of the only reasons for his survival, with support from Iran and Hezbollah being the other reason.

Recently, Russia and Iran signed a staggering oil agreement, meant to allow Moscow to supply other nations with Iranian oil, instead of its own. The problem, from Israel’s perspective, is that the agreement will also contribute to Iran’s economic rehabilitation, which has been slowly gaining steam since the interim agreement was signed in Geneva last November, lifting some international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

M-302 rockets seized by IDF forces on the Iranian ship Klos C.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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