Stopping Israel


By Jonathan S. Tobin Veteran foreign policy pundit Leslie Gelb taps into an uncomfortable truth today when he writes in the Daily Beast about the unspoken agendas at play in the debate about how to stop a nuclear Iran. As Gelb puts it, both the Obama administration and the Islamist regime in Iran are employing a common tactic as well as a shared goal in their diplomatic maneuverings in the dispute about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Both are doing their best to pretend there is a serious chance for substantive negotiations on the nuclear issue. And both are doing so because their priority is not so much to actually resolve the issue but to prevent Israel from attacking Iran. Given that President Obama has been escalating his rhetoric about his determination to stop Iran’s plans, this is a shocking charge, since it casts everything Washington is saying on the subject in a cynical light. The problem though is Gelb is almost certainly right.

Gelb stipulates that the common agenda between Washington and Tehran does not mean they are acting in concert. The lines of communication between the two governments are so tenuous that such collaboration would be impossible even if suspicion between them were not so intense. But the priority for both is to be able to postpone any resolution of the issue. Obama’s hope is that by holding out the prospect sanctions will bring Tehran to heel, he can exert sufficient leverage on Israel in order to prevent them from attacking Iran. Such an attack would unleash a host of unforeseen circumstances that might upset his re-election plans. Similarly, the ayatollahs would like to give just enough room for talks about talks in order to play for more time to continue developing their weapon plans. Yet, because it is painfully obvious sanctions will not work and the only point of negotiations would be to allow Iran to run out the clock on their nuclear timetable, the push to put off any attack appears to be tantamount to a concession that the West and Israel will have to live with a nuclear Iran.

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