Israel, Beware of Obama's Iran Deal

Obama's defense of his framework with Tehran is illogical, and American platitudes for Jerusalem may yet revert to accusations of warmongering.

Amiel Ungar
Amiel Ungar
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U.S. President Bararck Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2015 after a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. President Bararck Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2015 after a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program.Credit: AFP
Amiel Ungar
Amiel Ungar

It is obviously refreshing to hear solicitude for Israel oozing from U.S. President Barack Obama in his interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in contrast to his nastiness following Netanyahu's election win. Gone were the accusations that Israel spied on the negotiations with Iran and gave the information to the enemy - U.S. Congress. Gone, too, were the trumped-up charges of Israel stealing nuclear material. Obama even warned Iran not to mess with Israel, which would have been reassuring had Obama's director of National Intelligence James Clapper not removed Iran and Hezbollah from the terror threat list after the latest assault on Israel's Golan Heights by these reformed citizens and indirect beneficiaries of American intelligence.

The charm offensive is in overdrive, but there is always ample time to revert to the alternate meme – anyone who opposes the Iran deal is a warmonger. After pressuring Israel to refrain from unilateral action against Iran and leave the driving to Barack, the administration and its media surrogates will now accuse Israel of pushing the United States into a needless war with Iran.

In the Friedman interview, Mr. "All Options on the Table" effectively dismisses his two prime options. The military option is essentially worthless, Obama says: "We know that a military strike or a series of military strikes can set back Iran’s nuclear program for a period of time — but almost certainly will prompt Iran to rush towards a bomb." This was of course the argument used to try to dissuade Menachem Begin from bombing Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. But 34 years later, Iraq still does not have a reactor and as a result, Kuwait did not become Saddam Hussein's "19th province" in 1991.

Sanctions also are an ineffective stopgap, Obama tells Friedman: “We know that if we do nothing, other than just maintain sanctions, that they will continue with the building of their nuclear infrastructure and we’ll have less insight into what exactly is happening." Thus, Obama argues the proposed deal is the best course for Israel's sake. "Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place," he adds.

Let us understand this: If we put Iran to the test and it fails, all the options that Obama just decried as futile are part of his insurance policy. Military options dismissed when Iran is still without the bomb are going to work or even be considered when the Iranian ICBMs have nuclear warheads. The sanctions that have failed to deter the Iranian nuclear program - even presuming that they can miraculously snap back into place - are going to be more effective once Iran has crossed the nuclear threshold.

Another statement in the interview may reveal why Obama felt military and economic pressure were futile. "This [Iran] is a country that withstood an eight-year war [with Iraq] and a million people dead, they’ve shown themselves willing, I think, to endure hardship when they considered a point of national pride or, in some cases, national survival." The Obama administration does not believe the Iranian propensity for sacrifice was exhausted in the Iran-Iraq war, and considers Iran's willingness to commit troops and militias to a ground campaign against ISIS, while others make do with airstrikes, "positive."

Iran's preparedness for massive bloodletting channels North Vietnam's strategy to conquer South Vietnam. It was willing to absorb 1 million dead if it could inflict on the U.S. a tenth of that body count. Hanoi reasoned correctly that the U.S. would abandon the fight before it absorbed six-figure losses.

A nuclear Iran means Israel will face the threat of a Vietnam on its doorstep, not an ocean away. If Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah are working under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, then Israel will have to think very hard before responding strongly to a provocation such as kidnapped soldiers or a missile barrage. One memory that Hezbollah carries from the Second Lebanon War was Israel's flattening of its Beirut stronghol, Dahiyah. If Iran goes nuclear, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will be emboldened by the knowledge that Israel may not swiftly escalate, for fear of getting into a nuclear war.

This is what the Obama framework will bring. Despite the protestations of concern for Israel, the Israeli leadership should respond “Lo Miduvsheich Lo Mi'uktsech”: We want neither your honey nor your sting.

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