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Barack Obama - A John Wayne or Woody Allen?

Israel & US Currently On Same Iranian Page - Despite Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Netanyahu: 'Tehran Is Wobbling... But Sanctions Will Work Only If Accompanied By Clear Statement From International Community, Led By U.S., That Military Action Could Follow If Sanctions Fail'

IsraCast Assessment: Israel, US & Iran Now Engaged In Test Of Wills; Netanyahu & Ahamedenijad Will Not Back Down But Will Obama?

Benyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What can be said about the Wall Street Journal article that the Obama administration has warned Israel against a military strike on Iran 'over U.S. objections' and has stepped up security for U.S. facilities in the region? It reflects shifting assessments by Jerusalem and Washington on Iran's going nuclear, with the stress on 'shifting'. Analyst David Essing notes the WSJ has also reported that the EU and Japan were now getting cold feet over an Iranian oil embargo.

In this fateful showdown, two of the three key players have been predictable: Netanyahu and Ahmadenijad have not backed down, Obama is uncertain. The U.S. President entered the White House offering quiet diplomacy and engagement to Iran on the nuclear weapons issue. Three years later and what has he got? Ahmadenijad is now within twelve months or less to acquiring the bomb, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. But in defense of Obama, his diplomatic defeat has proved that military action may be the sole alternative to preventing Iran from going nuclear and threatening not only to annihilate Israel but to dominate the entire Middle East and its vital oil wells. For his part, Netanyahu has consistently repeated that Israel will do whatever it takes to prevent the Islamist fanatics in Tehran from going nuclear. On the other side of this match-up, Ahmadenijad and more importantly Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have also left no doubt. They are determined to acquire nuclear weapons in order to fulfil their religious and historic mission. They will stonewall until they do so.

Iranian missiles (photo: MEHR)

Case in point, threatened with a possible EU decision on an oil embargo later this month, Iran is once again offering to receive UN nuclear inspectors. It is their old duplicitous tactic they have pulled time and again to buy more time, while their centrifuges keep spinning out more enriched uranium. And now they have activated the new underground Fordow facility near the holy city of Qom. Will anyone know whether they are upgrading to the 93% enriched uranium, a tell-tale sign they are breaking out for the Bomb? But one thing is definite - the Iranians will never allow nuclear inspectors to conduct serious tests at their nuclear weapons sites. But the masters of diplomatic deception in Tehran may also realize they may have gone a threat too far by warning US aircraft-carriers not to sail back to, what they stress, is the Persian Gulf. As usual the vacillating European states and Japan now appear to be backpedalling over their earlier signals they were ready to impose serious sanctions on oil imports from Iran. The WSJ has also quoted EU diplomats as saying: 'There's no solid agreement yet, options include a six-month grace period'. Remember Secretary Panetta's estimate of 'twelve months or less', if Iran is operating other secret nuclear facilities such as Fordow.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihko Noda is also having second thoughts on an Iranian oil embargo saying he will first hold talks with the U.S. So just how serious is the international community about imposing 'crippling sanctions' as Iran enters what IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has called the 'critical year?' President Obama has stressed that these sanctions are now his main thrust to stopping Iran combined with the threat of a military option. (Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is about to visit Israel, has previously stated the he now has the options to take out Iran's nuclear capability.)
And this is where the WSJ has got it wrong when it implied that Israel's PM was bent on disregarding current U.S. policy and going it alone against Iran. Look at his position just articulated in an interview with The Australian newspaper: 'Tehran is wobbling... the sanctions targeted at the central bank are having an impact. But they will work only if accompanied by a clear statement from the international community, led by the U.S., that military action could follow if sanctions fail'.

How does that contradict Obama's position that 'all options are on the table'? Or that U.S. officials are puzzled over Israeli intentions? In fact, a subsequent editorial by The Australian got it right and had no trouble understanding what the WSJ apparently did not: 'With Europe and Japan joining the embargo on Iranian oil, and Iran's central bank targeted, the hope must be sanctions will yet persuade the mullahs to see sense. But there is no hint yet of that happening, and Mr. Netanyahu is right to suggest it must be made clear by the international community that if enhanced sanctions fail, military action will become a live option'.

With an international crisis of immense proportions and his prestige on the line during an election year, Barack Obama must act as the decisive leader of the free world by persuading the EU to support his sanctions campaign against a nuclear armed Iran. Otherwise, Israel may have no alternative but to go it alone. However contrary to the tone of the WSJ article, Israel is not champing at the bit to take on Iran knowing full well that her towns and cities will be targeted by rockets, not only from Iran but also from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, maybe Syria and possibly others as well.

Postscript: The situation has all the drama of a Hollywood western. Prime Minister Netanyahu says if the international community chickens out he 's ready to go to the O.K. Corral to take on the bad guys, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and his allies Hamas & Hezbollah. The question is whether President Barack Obama will turn out to be a John Wayne or a Woody Allen.

David Essing

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