The Obama administration seems to be trying a new tactic in its negotiations with Iran: using Israel as a credible military threat without having to threaten Iran itself. That’s the official read on yesterday’s $10 billion weapons sale to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The FT reports that the US describes the package “as a direct response to the potential threat from Iran,” and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried to bolster the move with what looks like full-throated support for Israel should it decide a strike is necessary:
Speaking on his first visit to Israel since taking over as secretary of defence, Mr Hagel said that the country had the right to decide by itself whether to attack Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
“Israel is a sovereign nation; every sovereign nation has a right to defend itself,” he said.
Unfortunately, the administration’s attempt here to tighten the screws on Tehran by using Israel as a credible threat of force is unlikely to impress the mullahs. The weapons package to Israel does not include the Pentagon’s new bunker-buster bomb, which many believe would be necessary to seriously damage Iran’s underground facility at Fordow. More, the NYT reports that, at 30,000 pounds, the bomb can only be carried by a B-2 bomber, which Israel doesn’t have and which the Obama administration won’t even discuss selling. Giving Israel everything it needs to carry out a strike except the requisite bomb and aircraft isn’t exactly the checkmate that will persuade the mullahs to throw up their arms, abandon their nukes and commit harakiri.
Despite its efforts, the administration can’t sidestep the dilemma it faces. The longer the mullahs think the US isn’t actually willing to act to prevent them from acquiring nukes, the closer we get to facing a nuclear Iran, a war with Iran, or both.
[Chuck Hagel image courtesy of Wikipedia]