Keeping Obama guessing on Iran
Jewish state adopts a don’t ask, don’t tell policy
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.