Monday, March 05, 2012

"Too Much Loose Talk of War"

Amid increasing pressure to draw "red lines" that would trigger an American military response to Iran's nuclear program, President Obama yesterday addressed AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).  While affirming the strength of U.S.-Israeli ties and his commitment to preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, the president pushed back against Republican presidential candidates who have argued for a more aggressive policy toward Iran and against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to get the United States to promise military action if the Iranians fail to meet certain preconditions.

Here are the key paragraphs from the speech:
Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world.  Already, there is too much loose talk of war.  Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program.  For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.  Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built.  Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt:  Speak softly; carry a big stick.  And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.
Amir Oren, writing in Haaretz, said this of President Obama:  "No one who knows Washington and its ways could mistake the subtext of his words. A strong commitment to Israel? Assuredly. Capitulation to the dictates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?  Not a chance."  For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in Canada to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper before continuing to Washington for today's meeting with President Obama, praised the president's statements asserting support for Israel's right to defend itself and opposition to Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Tom McCarthy of The Guardian describes how American electoral politics complicates the tense relationship between Obama and Netanyahu:
If Netanyahu decides he doesn't need Obama to hit Iran--or that the threat to Israel is too great to wait--then all bets suddenly are off.  What if instead of Mitt Romney the president suddenly faces a reelection fight involving a new war in the Middle East, expensive gas, U.S. casualties and a new economic dive--plus Mitt Romney (or Rick Santorum)?  Netanyahu knows that Obama knows that Netanyahu knows this.