Amid his election campaign, US President Barack Obama promised “no daylight” between the US and Israel when it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear bomb-making. Many hope this pledge will be kept, but it is unlikely the US will launch military moves against Iran.
Previous US presidents who were more committed to use of US force abroad – Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan and both presidents Bush – did not employ force to protect Israel when it was attacked or isolated, and shied away from confrontations with Iran and Syria.
LBJ did not even send an armada to open waterways closed by Egypt in 1967, though LBJ was quite pro-Israel.
Reagan attacked Libya in a raid after a Libyan-aided terror attack on US forces in Germany, but he pulled out of Lebanon rather than respond to attacks backed by Hezbollah and Syria in which hundreds of Americans and French soldiers were killed, and he actually reached out to Iran in the complicated Iran-Contra arms deal.
George HW Bush pressed Israel not to attack Iraq even when it attacked Israel in 1991, and George W Bush preferred that Israel itself deal with Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007.
As the Talmudists might say, if such extroverted interventionists did not use massive force, Obama is certainly not going to use massive force.
Another way to see this is to look at the team Obama has assembled to deal with issues of terror, use of force and Iran. They reflect Obama’s views: Wendy Sherman, under secretary of state, leads talks with the Iranians. Sherman has been as successful there as she was a decade ago heading Bill Clinton’s efforts to stop North Korea’s atomic bombs. David Ignatius of the Washington Post has said her talks “have produced little beyond an exchange of paper.” Sherman’s background in social work and a stint running the Fannie Mae Foundation clearly impressed both Iran and the Koreans.
ATTORNEY GENERAL Eric Holder often seems like he wants to make America a safer place for terrorists. Whether it is trying to close down the Guantanamo base in Cuba and bringing terrorists to trial in downtown NY, or moving strongly to investigate CIA agents who interrogated terrorists, Holder often makes observers wonder whether he forgot on which side of the terror problem he was supposed to be working.
When he was in the Clinton Justice Department, Holder toiled to get pardons for convicted Puerto Rican terrorists – pardons opposed by the rest of the Justice Department. Holder often acts as if he were still serving as a partner at the far-left law firm of Covington-Burling, which does pro-bono work for terrorist inmates at Guantanamo.
Holder led Obama’s efforts to give terrorists more legal redress than drug smugglers facing police in NY or Texas. He gave the “Underwear Bomber” his Miranda Rights, and he imposed the Army Field Manual as the way to question terrorists.
This means suspected terrorist murderers are treated not just like local kids who boost a car, but more like uniformed combatants – like officers and gentlemen who just happen to be not uniformed, not gentlemen but most assuredly the kind of enemies who like destroying airports and cities.
Tom Donilon, national security adviser, is a career political activist and lobbyist. Like Sherman and Obama, he has helped and been helped by Fannie Mae, the housing loan giant at the heart of the housing finance bubble. Obama has sent him a few times to tell the Israelis not to bomb Iran.
Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s top adviser, is the inner-voice of Obama. It is nice to know that as Obama wonders what to do or – more likely, not to do about Iran – he can call on someone who was born and has lived there. Jarrett has also served as Obama’s emissary to the US Muslims, including wealthy donors from the Iranian community. Jarrett has strong views on national security, and she did not like General James Jones, the first Obama national security adviser, reportedly pushing him aside for Tom Donilon.
ON THE day after Iran and Hezbollah engineered an attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, Jarrett hosted a gathering of Iranian activists (some not US citizens) at the White House. The New York Times later quoted an unnamed White House official as saying that the attack in Bulgaria was “tit for tat” in response to supposed Israeli attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.
So, military help on Iran from almost any US president was always an unlikely option, but expecting such help from the Obama White House is outright fantasy.
The Obama Administration is floating stories that Iran has been so hard-hit by sanctions that its hungry population will rise up in anger and overthrow the bomb-making ayatollah. Don’t bet on it.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans actually died of famine, but North Korea still got its bomb and then used it as a bargaining chip to get the West to give them food aid.
The writer, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat just published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, and The Jerusalem Post, and he served strategic affairs adviser in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and as an adviser to Israeli negotiating teams in 1991-92 at the Madrid Summit and thereafter.