Who said "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is
unacceptable and we have to mount an international effort to prevent that
from happening"? It wasn't Binyamin Netanyahu. No, President Barack Obama
said that at his first press conference after winning the 2008 election.
The clock is ticking ominously on that front. "We feel a sense
of urgency," an Israeli spokesman said as Prime Minister Netanyahu prepared
for his first meeting with Obama since both were elected. All Israelis feel
that sense of urgency because they have watched, frustrated, as the Bush
administration signed on to a lengthy series of negotiations with Iran
headed by the Europeans. With U.S. approval, the Europeans offered a
smorgasbord of incentives for Iran to give up its nuclear program. They were
met with meetings and more meetings. Iran agreed to nothing except more
meetings in an attempt to run out the clock. Tick. Tick. Tick.
And now a new American administration arrives on the scene
convinced, like its predecessor, that negotiations are the way to go
except, oddly, President Obama believes that he is departing from past
practice. Speaking to Newsweek magazine, he said, "…We want to offer Iran
an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international
rules. I think, ultimately, that will be better for the Iranian people. I
think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain
its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good
standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors.
And we are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over
the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region."
"Shift off a pattern over the last 30 years"? But the world has
negotiated with Iran offering carrots and sticks continuously over
that period. Will the Obama magic somehow accomplish what the Europeans, the
United Nations, and five previous presidents of both parties could not?
Among the very first initiatives of the Obama administration was
a conciliatory video message to the mullahs on the occasion of Iran's Nowruz
holiday. The response of the regime has been underwhelming. Even in the face
of Obama's goodwill gesture, Iran falsely convicted U.S. citizen Roxana
Saberi of espionage (her trial lasted about 40 minutes). She has since been
released after staging a hunger strike (and who knows what sort of backroom
deal). Work on nuclear weapons continues.
Obama insists that he is not naive about Iran. "If it doesn't
work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing
the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed
to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it's being victimized
by a U.S. government that doesn't respect Iran's sovereignty."
When you consider Iran's conduct on the world stage, its
relentless support of terrorists around the globe, its genocidal threats
against Israel and the United States, and its totalitarian repression at
home, you might think that a leader with the persuasive gifts of Barack
Obama would have no trouble mobilizing the international community. And in
fact, Secretary of State Clinton has said, "We believe that our outreach and
our consultation lay the groundwork for tougher international sanctions."
Yes, but tick, tick, tick. How long do they have to indulge that
Israel is terrified of an Iranian bomb. But she is not alone in
the Middle East in this. Sunni Egypt is nervous as well, as is Saudi Arabia.
Many observers believe that an Iranian bomb would ignite a nuclear arms race
in the region. The Saudis can certainly afford to buy the technology. Even
the tiny (but wealthy) United Arab Emirates are investing $7 billion in a
missile defense system. Does the Obama administration want to see the Middle
East, hardly known for stability and reliability, bristling with nuclear
A number of news outlet are reporting that CIA Director Leon
Panetta visited Israel two weeks ago to deliver a warning: Do not take
military action against Iran's weapon sites without consulting with us
first. Israel desperately needs American friendship now as ever. But the
policy of the Obama administration seems to be yet another iteration of the
negotiations track that has yielded nothing that in fact has bought time
for the mullahs to complete their nuclear ambitions. It may be asking too
much. As President Obama himself acknowledged to Newsweek: "They're right
there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis
what their security needs are."