An American president does all he can to shield Iran from Israel.
As US officials again ask Iran to stop its atom bomb program, President Barack Obama seems to be working hard to shield Iran and to prevent Israel from striking at Iran's nuclear weapons potential. US officials are believed to be behind stories about Israel readying basing and refueling options in countries near Iran, like Azerbaijan.
The Azeris quickly denied they allowed Israel to use their land., and this is a sign the Azeris are feeling pressure not to help Israel, even as Obama reportedly used the Islamist and strongly anti-Israel leader of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, to send a message to Iran that the US would be willing to accept "an Iranian civilian nuclear program."
For Israel—and for Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians—Iran's bomb is not a matter that can be indefinitely delayed in a diplomatic ping-pong match.
President Obama has been rotating his top officials on and off the diplomatic playing field to deter an attack on Iran. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, and many others have been sent to Jerusalem to tell Israel NOT to attack Iran.
“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” said General Dempsey, in an interview with CNN. Meanwhile, Secretary Panetta openly discussed some of Israel's options and possible time tables in ways that make them less surprising and effective for possible use against Iran.
At the same time, Obama has been seen using the playbook of his favorite pundit, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, whose book is often under Obama's arm, and Zakaria says "Within the context of Iranian politics, Ahmadinejad is the pragmatist." For more than three years, President Obama has agreed, trying to "engage" such "pragmatists."
"Pragmatist" has a special meaning for Zakaria/Obama or maybe they have not heard Ahmadinajad brag about how he felt a halo appear around him when he told the UN that everyone should pray for the Mahdi, an Islamic messiah Ahmadinajad believes has to be born out of a fire that will cleanse the world.
Ahmadinajad and Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, want such a mighty Mahdi. Their ideas are so extreme that Ayatollah Khomeini—hardly a moderate—outlawed them when he was alive. He felt the Mahdi cult would cause Iran's destruction.
Zakaria thinks attacking Iran is dumb because Iran is run by "rational" men like those who led the Soviet Union. Zakaria has said this for a long time, and he has been wrong for a long time.
The Soviets were led by conservative old men who said Communism would beat the West as part of an "inevitable dialectic." They could afford to wait. They did not run around handing out weapons of mass destruction to terrorists or client states. Iran is different. It helped Syria build a nuclear program and sends missiles to Venezuela.
Iran's leaders are not careful old atheists who are deterred or avoid confrontation. They feel God is on their side. They think God wants them to move things along quickly to His paradise on Earth. They sent thousands of children to certain death, to clear minefields with their bare hands, with only "keys to paradise" dangling from their necks. Blood clearly does not deter Iran's leaders, not even the blood of children.
Obama feels Iran can be swayed by non-military means before it gets a bomb. Recently, Obama has urged "tough" sanctions on Iran, but it took him three years to move away from engaging Iran to trying to strangle it.
However, this is not a real option. Russia and the China will not allow real sanctions, vetoing it at the UN. Obama's earlier model of talking nicely to the Iranians was really just a huge waste of time, but for Iran, it was time used building a bomb
For a decade, Iran has played the world for fools, processing yellow cake uranium to uranium hexafluoride gas and then to weapons grade uranium. Iran claimed it was working for "civilian purposes." There is method to Iran's madness, but it is not playing by the Western playbook or US-Soviet doctrines of deterrence.
Some suggest President Obama wants to reserve for himself the option to face Iran himself in a way that can achieve a dramatic victory a few days before the November elections. More likely, Obama just does not like to use force and also has trouble admitting his various game plans of "engaging Iran" and now "sanctions" have failed.
Still, President Obama needs to recall that this is no game for the Israelis and Iran's Arab neighbors who realize that Iran is not just playing games.
Israel and many Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia—are not going to wait forever for President Obama to get his game plan together.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is an expert on Arab politics and communications. He is the author of of the new book, Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat.
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