Keep­ing Obama guess­ing on Iran

Jewish state adopts a don’t ask, don’t tell pol­icy

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

Is­rael has adopted a new “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­icy. In this case, it refers to not telling Pres­i­dent Obama about pre­sumed plans to take mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran.

High-rank­ing Is­raeli of­fi­cials re­port­edly have in­formed their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts they will not give the United States ad­vance warn­ing should the Jewish state de­cide to make a pre­emp­tive strike against Iran’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram. The idea is to of­fer the United States plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity in deal­ing with the reper­cus­sions of an at­tack.

It’s a bit im­plau­si­ble to think the Ira­ni­ans would ever be­lieve we were not in­volved in any such at­tack’s plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. Tehran as­sumes that Amer­ica, the “Great Satan,” se­cretly ma­nip­u­lates Is­rael, the “Lit­tle Satan,” and that noth­ing hap­pens in the re­gion with­out the White House seal of ap­proval. Re­ports of this new pol­icy will be read by the mul­lahs as sim­ply a way of con­fus­ing the is­sue, a planned dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign ahead of an at­tack that al­ready has the green light from Washington.

The pol­icy makes sense from Is­rael’s per­spec­tive. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has no rea­son to be­lieve Mr. Obama would back mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran, even if the mis­sion were al­ready un­der way. If Is­rael is be­ing forced to go it alone, op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity de­mands that Washington be kept in the dark. The sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar to the way the United States keeps Pak­istan guess­ing about Amer­i­can op­er­a­tions in that part of the world. Decision-mak­ers in Is­rael have to ask them­selves whether some­one in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion might just leak news of an im­pend­ing at­tack in the mis­guided no­tion that it would fore­stall mil­i­tary ac­tion and ad­vance the cause of peace.

There is rea­son to be­lieve this would be the case. On Mon­day, Deputy Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Antony Blinken said the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieves that Iran “has not made a decision to pro­duce a nu­clear weapon, they are not on the verge of get­ting a nu­clear weapon, and there is still time and space for di­plo­macy to work.” The ob­jec­tive of U.S. Iran pol­icy is “buy­ing time and con­tin­u­ing to move this prob­lem into the fu­ture, and if you can do that — strange things can hap­pen in the in­terim.” Thus, thwart­ing an Is­raeli strike is con­sis­tent with stated White House pol­icy. In an elec­tion year, the pres­i­dent will want to avoid a new Mideast cri­sis, which would drive up oil prices.

We’ve been in this po­si­tion be­fore. Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower re­acted strongly to be­ing ex­cluded from plans by Bri­tain, France and Is­rael to in­ter­vene in Egypt dur­ing the 1956 Suez cri­sis. Amer­ica brought diplo­matic and fi­nan­cial pres­sure to bear to force the three pow­ers to with­draw. Mr. Obama may not have the nec­es­sary lever­age to com­pel Is­rael to back down. In 1956, the United States was an as­cen­dant global power led by a gen­eral. Mr. Obama’s Amer­ica is in de­cline and lead­ing from be­hind.

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