Putin's Iran Threat is good for Israel

In a column analyzing Russia’s recent threat to rethink its position on Iran, Walter Russell Mead and his staff at The American Interest postulated, “Linking the Ukraine crisis with the Iran negotiation is an American nightmare; it might just be a Russian dream come true.”  Mead is on to something; however, he stops short in his analysis. Russia’s threat could also be quite helpful to Israel.

Obama entered into the Iran negotiations in order to avoid a military confrontation, as well as to constrain the “true barrier” to peace in the region – Israel.  His hope was to bide time, notwithstanding that Iran’s centrifuges would continue to spin, bringing its nuclear capability to the brink or to fruition.

If Iran does in fact go nuclear on Obama’s watch, so be it; he will proceed to sell containment to the American public for the little time left in his term.  The carnival salesmen in the White House are quite talented at selling the American people a bill of goods – just look at ObamaCare.  While Russia invades a European country and threatens all-out war, the administration spends $52 million of taxpayer funds in just three months on advertising this debacle.  One can only imagine what they will spend to convince Americans that a nuclear Iran poses no threat to our national security.

Alas, since reality has yet to penetrate the White House bubble, Obama has likely never lost sleep thinking about Iran’s nuclear capabilities (his Baracketology, next vacation, and golf game, perhaps, but national security, not so much) – that is, until Vladimir Putin stepped into the picture.  Obama's failure to realize that he is now unmasked as a fool on the world stage does not mean that the rest of the world’s leaders have not noticed.  It is not a coincidence that just six months after Putin manipulated Obama out of bombing Syria despite its having crossed Obama’s disingenuous red line, Putin took to annexing Crimea from Ukraine.  And Putin did so despite a U.S. promise to protect Ukraine.  As one Ukranian parliamentarian stated, "[e]veryone believed that for good or bad the United States would be the world's policeman.  Now that function is being abandoned by President Obama, and because of that Russia invaded Crimea."

So Mead is correct that linking Ukraine with Iran is good policy for Russia while thrusting Obama into a nightmarish situation.  It will cause Obama to quake in his mom-jeans and further diminish American power.  Obama has already stated that he will not act militarily in response to the Ukrainian situation.  What are his choices if Russia acts on its threat and allies with Iran?  Cancel Putin’s Netflix account?

But linking Ukraine and Iran just might be an Israeli dream come true as well.  Mead stated, “The Obama strategy has always been a risky one; if Russia shifts into active cooperation with Iran, it is hard to see how the White House can keep hope alive.”  True enough.  But if Russia moves into Iran’s camp, Israel has the perfect excuse to move ahead with a military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations and will likely have the support of the entire Western world (in addition to America’s Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia), all of which will be relieved that at least someone is standing up to the bad guys.

Middle East and foreign policy experts have vacillated for years analyzing Israel’s capability to conduct a successful unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, guessing when it might proceed, and wondering whether the United States is holding Israel back from doing so.  Some ask why U.S. support is a necessary prerequisite to an Israeli strike that is in Israel's own national security interests.  One need only look at a map of the region and the fact that the country, the size of the state of New Jersey and only nine miles wide at its narrowest point, is surrounded by 21 Arab nations, the vast majority of whom are adversaries, to understand Israel’s need for supportive friends.

When the most powerful nation on earth, the one that provides Israel with the most support both militarily and diplomatically, orders its ally not to attack another country, Israel is left with little choice but to listen.  That is why Obama, Kerry, Clinton, and Panetta have been able to publicly abuse Israel with little backlash.  But it is also why the administration’s threats of international isolation and abandonment have left Israel with little choice but to loudly proclaim her legal right to take all measures necessary in order to ensure the safety and security of her people – to defend herself, by herself.

And there are many signs that Israel is prepared to do so.  In the sixth year of Obama’s administration, Israelis know full well that the American president who promised, “The United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security” has no intention of actually following through on that assurance.  The U.S. may have been “shocked” (just shocked!) at the statements of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon this week when he opined that Israel must “behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves,” in part because:

... [w]e had thought the ones who should lead the campaign against Iran is the United States. But at some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian baazar, the Iranians were better.

But Ya’alon was certainly speaking truth to power.  And speaking of power, let us turn to a real superpower.  Not the type that we reminisce about from the pre-Obama glory days of the Pax Americana that kept stability in the world, but the superpower that presents itself in the form of a democratic dynamo – the economic and military powerhouse known as Israel. As reported in the Times of Israel this week:

Israel’s security forces have the capability to carry out military operations in virtually every part of the globe, including Iran, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday, adding that Israel had already conducted dozens of covert operations in foreign and enemy countries….

The TV report asserted that Gantz’s comments represented a first “definitive” acknowledgment that Israel is capable of military intervention in Iran and constituted a hint from the chief of General Staff that this kind of activity was already happening.

And according to a report in Ha’aretz, despite the ongoing talks with Iran and P5+1, Netanyahu and Ya’alon have ordered the IDF to begin preparations for a possible 2014 Iranian strike, earmarking at least $2.89 billion for the operation.  (As an aside, think about that dollar amount in the context of the $52 billion that Obama has spent on three months of ObamaCare advertising and try not to throw something at the television the next time you see him joking around with Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, Zach Galifianakis, Kobe Bryant, and the rest of his adoring entourage.)

Many Israel-supporters had hoped that Netanyahu would attack Iran prior to Obama’s 2012 victory, believing that Obama would have been forced to support Israel for fear of reprisal from the electorate if he failed to do so.  That is why now, when the world’s good guys are shirking their responsibilities and shrinking in stature in the face of ever more powerful bad guys enabled by the U.S. president, is the time for Israel to act.

Putin has given Netanyahu the gift of a second window.  In the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections, in which Obama must keep the Senate in control of the Democrats, Obama would have no choice but to stand behind Israel if she attacks Iran.  If Russia stands with Iran, Obama will be forced to stand with Israel or lose the American people to the Republican Party.  He cannot risk that happening. And Netanyahu cannot afford not to act on that knowledge.