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Why Obama Opted for 'Change' on Iran

Obama Administration Signals That Iranian Attempt To Break Out For Nuclear Weapons Can Be Prevented By U.S. Military Options

U.S. Reassurances Apparently Designed To Dissuade From Surprising White House By Air Strike On Iran's Nuclear Sites After IAEA Confirmed Iranians On Working On Nuclear Weapons

Iranian Naval Maneuvers A Warning To West But Iranian Navy Is No Match For U.S. Warships

Barack Obama

 Not only are all the options on the table, including military operations but the U.S. also has the capability to knock out Iran's nuclear weapons program - that was the stunning message from U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the new Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff. It was a one-two punch to back up President Barack Obama's diplomatic efforts which have ended in abject failure according to the most recent IAEA report. What are the implications?

 What triggered U.S. President Barack Obama's sudden shift on Iran and her nuclear weapons project? In 2009, during his seminal speech in Cairo, the newly elected U.S. leader offered 'engagement' to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs in Tehran. Now about to enter his fourth year in the White House, Obama's diplomatic dilly-dallying has run its course; the most recent IAEA report has revealed, beyond dispute, that sanctions have failed to deter the Iranians from continuing the nuclear weapons program. Never a serious believer that sanctions would work, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has now disclosed that Iran might be able to acquire a nuclear weapon in a year, possibly even less, 'if it is operating a hidden facility that may be enriching fuel'. Panetta, who recently warned about the complications of an Israeli strike, has now indicated the U.S. and Israel are on the same page: 'We share the same concerns. The U.S. does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line obviously for the Israelis. If we have to deal with it, we'll deal with it'. But did that include military operations? Panetta replied: 'There are no operations off the table. A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable'.

U.S. reassures Israel

But if American voters are slated to elect a new president on Nov.6, 2012, this is within the same time frame that Tehran might go nuclear. Therefore time is of the essence because Israel has a proven doctrine of taking military action to prevent any hostile Middle Eastern state from acquiring the bomb. This was the case in 1981 with Saddam Hussein's Osirak reactor and most recently in 2009 against Bashar Assad's secret facility supplied by North Korea. What's transpired behind the scenes? Before Panetta's epiphany, Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with President Obama and may have conveyed a vital message outlining several principles. First, the recent IAEA report put the world on notice that Iran is working on the bomb - no ifs, ands or buts. Moreover, the Iranians might be closer than most foreign intelligence services believed and existing sanctions were not likely to succeed, although they crippled parts of the Iranian economy but not its crucial oil industry.

The IDF intelligence estimate was the Iranians were trying to secretly produce the bomb believing they would then be 'immune' from any punitive measures. In addition, the expected fall of its Syrian ally, combined with Iran's subsequent friction with Turkey, will spur Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons as fast as possible. The bottom line was that Israel reserved the right to launch a solo strike against Iran's nuclear targets in the coming year. Granted this would trigger pandemonium in the region, including massive rocket attacks on Israel by Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

The international price of oil might soar and but as Gen.(res.) Aharon Zeevi Farkash has said: 'The damage to Israel would still be less than if she did nothing and risked one Iranian nuclear missile landing on Tel Aviv!' Generally speaking, President Obama would abhore an Israeli strike at any time, but during an election year would be disastrous. He would be exposed as an incompetent president caught up in a no-win situation and this would dash his prospects for winning a second term in the White House. On the other hand, if he issued an ultimatum to Israel not to attack Iran when her very existence was at stake, would lead to Obama's being tarred and feathered by the Republican candidate. In such circumstances, it was imperative for Obama to give Israel some sort of public reassurance that if Iran 'breaks out' for the bomb, the U.S. will take action. That appears to be what Defense Secretary Panetta has now done.

Gen. Martin Dempsey: 'Yes we can!'...

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has seconded Panetta's tough talk by declaring that an American strike on Iran is no longer mission impossible: 'I am satisfied that the options we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable, if necessary'. And Gen.Dempsey also told CNN: 'My biggest worry is that they (Iranians) will miscalculate our resolve'. The other part of the deal may be that Israel has promised the U.S. to coordinate any military action against Iran and not launch any surprises.

Iranian threat to Gulf states as well...

As for reaction in the Arab Sunni world, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf states have been urging the U.S. to take action against Shiite Iran. In fact, they would probably like nothing better than for Israel to take out Iran's nuclear capability that poses a dire threat to them as well. But what if Israel and the U.S. both do nothing and let Iran go nuclear? It would probably start a nuclear arms race with harrowing consequences. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey would likely launch their own crash programs and Obama would be held responsible for an even greater calamitous situation in Middle East.

Tehran literally sticking to its guns...

If the U.S. is now on record as being ready to launch a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons does the Obama administration still have another card to play? Something that might avert an all out war. For example, one option that has been bandied about in the past has been the threat of a naval embargo. Until now, President Obama has failed to exert any influence over Iran - he is now reverting to the proverbial stick after his carrots have failed to impress the Iranian regime. In the meantime, Tehran is literally sticking to its guns with the massive naval maneuver over a distance of two thousand kilometers in the Gulf region with all the implications for the strategic Straits of Hormuz, through which some 30% of the West's oil flows on tankers. However the Iranian Navy is certainly no match for the armada of US warships and aircraft that could be massed very quickly in the arena. Therefore the Iranians are apparently bluffing at a time that Obama has upped the ante by putting his presidential prestige on the line bluffing in an election year.

David Essing

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