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In a blatant and dishonorable maneuver, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has inserted himself into the presidential race. Popping off to reporters, Netanyahu blasted President Obama, for refusing to approve triggers which, if set off, would start a war with Iran. The Israeli leader wants the United States to draw "red lines" in the sand...limits on Iran which, if exceeded, would green light a military attack. What is not clear is whether the red lines would trigger an attack by the U.S. or Israel or both. (I suspect Netanyahu wants red lines so the U.S. would be forced to attack Iran to save face. There is ample precedent for him to believe this is possible. The most recent example is from Bush '43 who said the U.S. had to attack Iraq because we said we would and we cannot afford to lose face in that region of the world.)
Mitt Romney has already genuflected to Netanyahu and Israel. On a recent trip, he clearly stated he would use military force against Iran to back Israel's play. Netanyahu is trying to force President Obama into a similar commitment. He is trying to put political pressure on Obama so he will abandon diplomacy and economic sanctions and agree to an ultimatum to Iran that if it crosses one of these lines it will lead to war. The calculation is if Obama waffles or equivocates about Iran, it will confirm Romney's accusation he is no friend of Israel and Jewish voters will switch to Romney in November. Netanyahu should be ashamed of himself. Romney isn't reflective enough to think about what such a commitment to Israel would entail or cost in terms of resources, treasure and blood.
As of now, Obama and his European allies have told Israel to stand down. They have clearly expressed the belief there is still time for sanctions to work and Iran to change its policies. If Obama is re-elected, he will be even less inclined to get militarily involved in Iran and Netanyahu will have no leverage over him. He is trying to blackmail Obama into sacrificing his sanctions on the altar of political expediency.
Romney has committed himself to military responses all over the world. (It’s why he wants to increase the military budget by trillions of dollars) He supports attacks on Iran. He wants military involvement in Syria. He has declared Russia to be our greatest enemy and he says he will go after China too. Netanyahu knows this...knows Romney will never have a chapter in Profiles in Courage... and now he is willing to use the lives of young American soldiers as part of an extortion plot to force Obama to go along.
The puzzling part of Netanyahu’s position is he has not articulated what these lines or limits should be. What ultimatums should the U.S. impose on Iran? Should we go to war unless Iran allows international inspectors to enter the country? What happens if they don't find a smoking gun? (In Iraq, they didn't find anything yet we went to war anyway to show we meant business) Should Iran have to shut down all nuclear research? How would we know if they did? Is Iran allowed to pursue nuclear research for peaceful purposes? How do you know the difference?
If Iran ignores one of our red lines, what happens next? Do we attack from the air? What do we attack? Do we attempt to destroy every research facility in the country? How many casualties will we have to endure? Since experts say such an attack will only set back Iran's timetable, are we going to put boots on the ground to insure Iranian compliance with our red lines? If we do attack, what is the definition of victory? When do we stop the carnage? If Hezbollah launches attacks on Israel from Lebanon, do we retaliate there as well? What are the economic consequences of an attack on Iran? What happens to the price of a gallon of gasoline? Can Iran shut down the straights of Hormuz? Will Iran use surrogates to commit acts of terrorism against "soft" American targets? What do we do then? Do you feel that sucking motion as Netanyahu draws us in deeper and deeper?
Obama has refused to meet with Netanyahu in New York. Good! He should hold firm on that decision. Netanyahu has inserted himself into the domestic politics of this country and he should pay a price. No president, except maybe Romney and Bush, would allow him or herself to be stampeded into actions detrimental to the nation's interests. No president can afford to let the world think he can be threatened with no consequences. No president should ever make a decision to go to war under duress. No president can ever put the needs or desires of a foreign power ahead of the interests of the American people.
Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons. Israel has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty while Iran is a signatory. Israel says Iran getting a nuclear weapon is a direct threat to its security, and yet no rogue nation has ever acquired and then used a nuclear weapon. Not even the whack-jobs in North Korea have threatened to use one against the South.
I don't like Obama's policy in Afghanistan. We should come home now. However, he has been more nuanced in his policies toward the Arab Spring nations. He came up with a successful way to support the liberation of Libya with minimal American military involvement. He has refused to get America more involved in the civil war in Syria and his diplomatic approach to Iran is still our best chance to resolving this problem. His reluctance to use force is good for this nation. Romney's commitment to use force first is quite scary.
As for Netanyahu...Obama should tell him to butt out....Congress should tell him to shut up...American Jews should tell him they are Americans first and they will not tolerate a foreign leader inserting himself into out political contests...the American people should tell Romney to grow up, get a spine, show some testicular fortitude and stop pandering to Israel, and anyone else who might vote for him, in the hope the Jewish vote will abandon Obama and embrace him.
The majority of Israelis do not support an attack on Iran without American approval. Netanyahu is trying to extort such approval at the cost of American lives and treasure. He should fail. He will fail if Obama is re-elected. If Romney wins, your children will not be safe from whatever direction the wind blows.