16 September '12..
The Washington Post's David Ignatius is stumped, he claims. Stumped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence that the U.S. draw a firm "red line" to stop Iran's relentless push for nuclear weapons capability. Heck, not just capability, but the production of nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and menace the United States. The former, a most public and oft-stated goal of the Jew-hating Iranian mullahs and their puppet-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But as we read through Ignatius' thoughts and analysis, we discover that he needn't be stumped. Ignatius answers his own question.
In Ignatius' own words:
Watching Netanyahu's public, Hamlet-like anguishing over the past year about "to bomb or not to bomb," one suspects the real issue for him isn't red lines so much as trust that they will be enforced. Despite Obama's record of lethal covert action against al-Qaeda, the president clearly hasn't convinced Bibi. [Italics added]
So, Ignatius gets to the nub of it. The Israeli prime minister doesn't trust President Obama to follow through on public declarations to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons development facilities when the time comes (which the prime minister is convinced is very close to now).
Why shouldn't Netanyahu suspect that the president won't follow-through in attacking Iran when push comes to shove?
Ignatius cites Mr. Obama's "record of lethal covert action against al-Qaeda" as proof that the president's word is as good as gold. But covert action and drone attacks are highly limited, narrow-bore actions. Going after Iran's nuclear weapons' development facilities would occur on a much larger scale and involve conventional military assets. A conventional military attack on Iran targeting its nuclear weapons' facilities could spark a broader conflict.
It's legitimate for the president and his advisers to game the consequences of attacking Iran. The advantages and disadvantages of a broader conflict must be weighed. But the president is on record as favoring an attack when Iran reaches a threshold point in its nuclear weapons development. Note it's "when Iran reaches a threshold point," not if.
The Israeli prime minster is strongly persuaded that Iran has reached the "when" stage. Netanyahu is understandably dubious about Mr. Obama's willingness to lead a conventional military attack against Iran, given that the president is winding down the fight in Afghanistan and disengaging from Iraq.
Mr. Obama and U.S. allies continue to indulge the fiction that sanctions and talks or whatever short of military action will end the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu and Israeli intelligence know otherwise. The prime minister knows it's better to strike Iran sooner rather than allow the Iranians to further disperse and harden their nuclear weapons development facilities. Such would only increase the likelihood of an attack failing.
What Ignatius lacks is context for Netanyahu's distrust of the president's word.
For nearly four years, Mr. Obama has demonstrated contempt for the prime minister and the Israelis and a decided tilt toward the Arabs, particularly the Palestinians. Mr. Obama's urging that Israel retreat to its 1967 borders didn't exactly boost Israelis' confidence in Mr. Obama. Retreating to Israel's 1967 borders would greatly comprise Israeli security.
Netanyahu also has seen Mr. Obama's naïve (to put it charitably) embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. The overthrow of Mubarak and Gaddafi in favor of the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and chaos in Libya that is allowing extremist Muslim elements to flourish has to persuade Netanyahu that Mr. Obama's judgment and intentions are faulty.
Netanyahu's distrust of the president's word has been validated by the current massive Middle East-wide violence against the U.S. and its allies. The comical stupidity of Secretary of State Clinton contending that an anti-Muslim movie made in the U.S. is the reason for the Arab explosion against the U.S. and responsible for the murder of U.S. Ambassador Stevens (and three aides) and the depraved treatment of the ambassador's body by Libyan thugs makes any sensible person wonder about the president's (and Madam Clinton's) connection to reality and seriousness of purpose.
Mr. Obama's Middle East policy of Arab appeasement is going up in flames - literally. Right before the world's eyes. Netanyahu's bulldog determination to pin down President Obama to action against Iran makes perfect sense and is fully justified.