Sunday, April 11, 2010

Has Obama Conceded That Iran Will Become a Nuclear Power?

Greg Sheridan (photo right) is the foreign editor of The Australian, Australia's leading national newspaper, and is considered by many to be the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism. On April 3, he published a column entitled "US Allows Iran Its Nuclear Vision," in which he wrote:
US President Barack Obama has decided to abandon any serious effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He is determined instead to live with a nuclear Iran, by containment and, if possible, negotiation.

This is the shifting tectonic plate in the Middle East.

This is the giant story of the past few weeks which the world has largely missed, distracted by the theatre of the absurd of Obama's contrived and mock confrontation with Israel over 1600 apartments to be built in three years' time in a Jewish suburb in East Jerusalem.

Iran is the only semi-intelligible explanation for Obama's bizarre over-reaction against the Israelis.

According to Mr. Sheridan, having conceded that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, the overriding concern for the Obama Administration is to prevent Israel from launching a military attack against Iran in an effort to stop what Israel understandably views as an existential threat. As Mr. Sheridan notes:

In 2008, Israel told Washington it was planning to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Washington talked Jerusalem out of the move, not least by showing its own determination to stop the Iranians.

In those days, senior Americans from then-president George W. Bush down, often said that "all options are on the table" in their determination to stop Iran acquiring nukes. All options explicitly included an American military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Having backed down from the assurances given Israel by his predecessor (one more George W. Bush policy that President Obama is now disavowing), the Administration must do everything in its power to discourage Israel from taking matters into its own hands. According to Mr. Sheridan:

This is where the Obama-Israel dust-up comes in. By so isolating Israel, by irresponsibly unleashing a global wave of anti-Israel sentiment, especially in nations which normally support Israel, Obama has made the possibility of Israel considering unilateral action against Iran much more unlikely. The Israelis would weigh such action very carefully. There are many pluses and minuses. By creating the impression of Israel as a besieged, isolated and reckless nation, which the wildly disproportionate reaction to the East Jerusalem apartments accomplished, Obama has made the potential cost to Israel of action against Iran much greater.

I do not know that Mr. Sheridan's theory completely explains the recent dust-up in American-Israeli relations. The public stances of the Obama Administration may also be due in whole or in part to a desire on the part of the Administration to closen U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world, which in turn requires, in the President's own words, that the U.S. "create some space" between itself and Israel. However, Mr. Sheridan makes sense and his theory should be heeded by all friends of Israel, and anyone else concerned by the prospects of a nuclear-armed Iran.

[Hat tip: Jay Shapiro at Israel National News--Arutz 7 Radio]

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