Western governments, eager to restrain Israel from attacking Iran, would have us believe that "everyone" is against us. And, indeed, as I have indicated myself, it sure feels that way, because those who are opposed to Israeli action are the ones who are publicly vocal. They are, of course, also applying maximum pressure.
On Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague gave an interview on the subject that shed light on his dangerous and distorted thinking.
"I think Israel, like everyone else in the world ("everyone else" -- got that?), should be giving a real chance to the approach we adopted: very serious economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and the readiness to negotiate with Iran."
It is probably that "readiness to negotiate" which is most likely to convince Iran, don't you think?
Hague described two possible scenarios if Iran went ahead with its nuclear program. "Either they will be attacked, and there will be a war, or there would be a cold war, in which Iran for the long term would be subject to very intensive economic sanctions. They would find that other nations in their region developed nuclear [capabilities?], and they would be in permanent stand off with those countries."
This man is terrifying. For at no point does he say that if the sanctions and diplomacy fail a military option will be necessary. He not only envisions the possibility of a nuclear Iran, but of nuclear proliferation in the region, as well.
Hague's pronouncements aside, all indications are that not every nation is opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran. Only those nations securing oil from Iran or otherwise disconcerted by the projected "unrest" (which would generate increased oil prices) that might follow an attack are expressing this opinion. Arab nations in the region of Iran, such as Saudi Arabia, who detest and fear Iran, and envision a dangerous Iranian hegemony if Iran goes nuclear, fervently hope Israel will attack. They will not say so publicly, however.
I will further add that -- while we certainly must prepare for the possibility -- it is not necessarily a given that there would be "a war" if we attacked Iran, although this is precisely what the Iranians want the world to think. It has been pointed out that when Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, there was no response. Were the Israeli attack to include disabling of certain key non-nuclear facilities, such as rocket launching areas or communication centers, it might diminish Iranian capacity to wage war.
When US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was here holding meetings with Israeli officials, there were no press conferences called, and no official pronouncements from either side. But today Israel Hayom -- relying on off-the-record information -- reports that when Donilon met with Defense Minister Barak and Chief of Staff Gantz, a "demand" was put to him, that he challenge Iran to stop its nuclear development immediately.
There is no record of how Donilon responded, if at all he did. But I cannot imagine he would ever agree to this. For challenging Iran this way requires an "or else..." corollary, and that's exactly where Obama does not want to go.
Says Israel Hayom: "Israeli officials clarified that as long as Iran does not halt its nuclear program entirely, action must be taken now to stop it from progressing any further."
I have written a good deal in recent days about situations in which it seems Israel is not sufficiently protecting her own rights and interests. And I will continue to do so. But in this instance, it seems to be very much the case that our leaders understand the red line with regard to refusal to cave:
It came not only from Israel Hayom, but other sources as well, that Barak told Donilon that the US-Israel relationship is one between "two sovereign countries, each one responsible in the final analysis for the decisions it takes for itself and about its future." Simply put: We're going to do what we believe we must do.
May Heaven help all of our leaders to be strong in the face of incessant pressure, and focused always on what is good for Israel.
Still other visits from US officials are planned in coming days, while Barak is apparently going to the US next week, in response to a strongly worded "request" from the American government that he do so.
Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to N. America in the beginning of March. He will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been an exemplary friend; speak at the AIPAC Conference; and then meet with Obama on March 5.
While the NYTimes just days ago ran an article citing experts who said Israel would be hard pressed to pull off a successful operation against Iran, the German Die Welt has expressed an entirely different expert opinion:
Hans Ruhle, a leading German security expert, who directed the planning department of the German Defense Ministry in the 80s, has written an article in which he declares himself confident that Israel would be capable of destroying Iran's major nuclear installations and set back Iran's nuclear program significantly.
Please see an incisive Wall Street Journal editorial regarding US pressure on Israel (with all emphasis added):
"Is the Obama Administration more concerned that Iran may get a nuclear weapon, or that Israel may use military force to prevent Iran from doing so? The answer is the latter, judging from comments on Sunday by Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.
"Appearing on CNN...Dempsey sent precisely the wrong message if the main U.S. strategic goal is convincing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. He said the US is urging Israel not to attack Iran...
"In a single sound bite, Gen. Dempsey managed to tell the Iranians they can breathe easier because Israel's main ally is opposed to an attack on Iran, such an attack isn't likely to work in any case, and the US fears Iran's retaliation.
"If the US really wanted its diplomacy to work in lieu of force, it would say and do whatever it can to increase Iran's fear of an attack. It would say publicly that Israel must be able to protect itself and that it has the means to do so. America's top military officer in particular should say that if Iran escalates in response to an Israeli attack, the US would have no choice but to intervene on behalf of its ally. The point of coercive diplomacy is to make an adversary understand that the costs of its bad behavior will be very, very high.
"The general is not a free-lancer, so his message was almost certainly guided by the White House. His remarks only make strategic sense if President Obama's real priority is to contain Israel first—especially before the November election.
"...Dempsey's comments will have the effect of making war more likely, not less.
Could it be any clearer? Obama, who is not a friend of Israel, advances deplorable and short-sighted foreign policy. He's a menace to the Western world.
Let's circle back, then, and look at Obama policy regarding UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization):
Four months ago, when UNESCO accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full member, the US cut off funds to this agency, as mandated by US legislation that requires a spending freeze on any UN agency that grants full membership to "Palestine" before an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement has been achieved.
Abbas had declared intention to apply to a host of other UN agencies, but UN Secretary-General Ban forthrightly suggested that the PA not do so, as it would put US funding to these agencies at risk as well. The US action stopped the PA in its tracks then, at the same time that it delivered a message to the UN.
Now the State Department has put nearly $79 million for UNESCO into its 2013 budget with the intention of seeking an explicit waiver from Congress that would permit this funding to be released.
There is likely to be considerable opposition to the waiver in Congress, however. On the day the State Department released information about its intentions in the matter, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, made a statement of her own:
"Resuming U.S. funding would give a green light for other UN bodies to follow in UNESCO’s footsteps and support the Palestinian statehood push.
"[It] sends a disastrous message that the US will fund UN bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make."
Just as Gen. Dempsey's remarks (above) are understood to be coordinated from the White House, so can we understand that this action by the State Department originates with or is sanctioned by Obama. And we must ask precisely what it is that the president hopes to accomplish.
On the face of it, this is more than a bit bewildering. His administration is on record as being opposed to unilateral PA efforts to secure recognition as a state via the UN. What is more, the US lobbied UNESCO to refrain from accepting the PA as a full member.
So why give the go-ahead to the PA to continue on its UN path, and withdraw penalties from UNESCO?
Well...the Obama administration has a policy of supporting the UN. This, as US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides made clear in a press conference, would include support of UNESCO. Elaborating, he said:
"UNESCO does a lot of enormously good work and we’d like to make sure that we have a contribution commensurate with their work." (Emphasis added)
"A lot of enormously good work..."
UNESCO's mission, as the US explained, is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information."
Ah so. A strange assessment when you consider that Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) last year rated UNESCO as among the worst international agencies with regard to "value for money." DFID charged UNESCO with "long-lasting historic underperformance" and rated it as "unsatisfactory."
One must suspect that the Americans are aware of poor UNESCO performance. For the US had withdrawn from membership in this agency from the mid-80s until 2003, citing "excessive politicization, long-term lack of budgetary restraint, and poor management."
Is the State Department now truly confident that they would get their money's worth for that $79 million?
And what is really Obama's game?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.