|Every day, he looks more and more like Dick Cheney|
“The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel..."Now the list of things that are wrong with this statement is long, but let's highlight a few of them. First, there IS no hurry. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, is not actively working on one, does not have weapons grade fissile material, and even if they do ultimately develop a bomb they have no reliable method for delivering it. First generation atomic bombs are too big and fragile to mount on missiles - it takes years, even decades to develop the technology that allows that level of miniaturization. The temporal pressure that Netanyahu is reacting to is the American Presidential election. If Obama is re-elected to his second, and final, term in office, he will no longer have the political constraints that currently allow him to be abused and pushed around by this murderous thug. Israel knows they have the capability to start a major regional war, but not to finish it, and without the firepower the US can bring to bear will find herself bogged down in a brutal war of missiles, bombs and terror, while the price to insure a tanker of oil traveling through the Straights of Hormuz skyrockets and the price of oil rises and cripples the global economy.
Then there is the matter of these "red lines". No government should ever put itself in the position where the decision to go to war is essentially dictated by events and powers outside its control. If the US is to go to war against Iran, I would want that to be at the time of our commander's choosing, not dependent on some arbitrary set of factors under the control of the Iranians. That would be utterly negligent on the part of the US government, something a Romney administration might do, but hopefully not the Obama team. It is also worth noting that any red line that was described might be very difficult to confirm, and would be subject to endless argument over whether it had been crossed. Even the current construct, where the US says a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable, would be impossible to prove unless or until they actually tested a bomb. Something more ambiguous than that, for example the Israeli construct that an Iran with the capability of building a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, is more in the way of a justification for war than a true red line.
One thing that Netanyahu has certainly done - he has come out as an active member of Team Romney, lending his voice to an unprecedented foreign blast of anti-Obama propaganda. It's remarkable that this is one of America's key allies, doing something so vile not even our enemies have been willing to do. There is a powerful taboo against taking sides or blatantly meddling in the political process in other nations, and for a very good reason. Netanyahu has essentially bet his coalition on a Romney electoral victory, because he has now crossed a line, and a second Obama term will not be conducive to the kind of unlimited support that Israel has received in recent years, even when it was not in America's interest.
All of this left the Administration and the Obama campaign with a tough choice. With Netanyahu coming to speak at the UN, and requesting a meeting with President Obama, the President could appear politically weak and meet with him, he could use the meeting to put Bibi in his place, risking alienating more Jewish voters, or he could take the safest path and merely explain that there just isn't time in the President's schedule for such a meeting. And that is what team Obama did. Everyone knows it's a snub - the President can always rearrange his schedule for meetings he deems important, but as long as the White House sticks to their story and Netanyahu at least is restrained from accusing the President of outright lying, this is the path with the least political risk.
This leaves us with the remaining concern, and it's a big one. If Netanyahu is all in, and it appears that he is, as we get closer to the election he is going to become more desperate. With Obama building a strong lead in the polls, and a significant lead in electoral votes, the Israeli leadership may feel that they have no choice but to launch an attack on Iran before that window is closed to them forever. The scenario is a dark one, and it plays out like this. Israel uses its air power against Iranian nuclear facilities, including the operating reactor at Bushehr, and Iran retaliates by threatening shipping in the Straights and launching missile strikes against Israeli cities, along with rockets launched from Gaza and Lebanon. Israel simply does not have the air power to reduce or eliminate all these threats simultaneously, and begins to suffer increasing casualties. They send a message to the US that they cannot stem the tide using conventional weapons, and will use nuclear missiles if the US does not get involved in striking the Iranian missile launchers. And with that, welcome to the regional conflagration we've been fretting about for forty years.