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Looming Threat

By refusing to directly confront Iran’s provocations, the United States has become the Islamic Republic’s key ally in its march toward a nuclear bomb

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why hasn’t the Obama Administration made more of the fact that the Iranian plot recently disrupted by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials included the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Washington? It’s true that the Saudi ambassador to the United States was identified specifically as an assassination target, but the threat was the same against both the Saudi and Israeli embassies—which means that in addition to hundreds of Sunni Arabs dead in Foggy Bottom, there could have been hundreds of dead Jews in Cleveland Park.

It’s strange the White House would miss an opportunity to pose as Israel’s worried and protective friend and ally, especially facing a presidential election campaign that some worry is losing Jewish support and money. After all, administration figures like Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta can’t insist strongly enough that Israel is isolated from the rest of the world and that the United States is the only one in its corner.

Amid all the different theories concerning the Iran plot—that the Iranians aren’t really behind it because they’re too smart, or that it was orchestrated by a rogue element of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards looking to embarrass Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—it is perhaps most useful to look at this recent effort as the final test Iran will face before it gets a nuclear weapon. Seen this way, it is clear that the White House wouldn’t want to highlight Israel’s spot in Iran’s crosshairs, because no matter how many times President Barack Obama tells Israeli officials and Jewish audiences that an Iranian nuclear bomb would be unacceptable, his administration’s real policy position has just been exposed. A demand for more sanctions against Tehran in response to an operation intended to slaughter hundreds of American allies in the U.S. capital—in a series of attacks that would have also caused hundreds of American casualties—makes it clear to everyone, especially the Iranians, that Washington isn’t going to do anything serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

Because Washington doesn’t want to do anything about Iran, it has little choice but to ignore it—or deny its machinations. Let’s look at the Iranian record in Iraq, and how former and current U.S. officials chose to explain it away. In 2007, Gen. Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he doubted that the Iranian government knew about the Iranian-manufactured IEDs killing American soldiers. The same year, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and a National Security Council staffer under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, claimed that the “The involvement of these outside actors”—that is, Iran-backed militias—“is not likely to be a major driver of violence” in Iraq. And most recently, Biden told a veterans group last summer that “Iranian influence in Iraq is minimal. It’s been greatly exaggerated.”

This gives rise to the notion that the Iranians are endowed with supernatural powers that allow them to wage operations around the world so clever and sophisticated in their planning and execution that they barely show any fingerprints. But it is not Washington’s lack of evidence that creates this idea; rather it is absence of will.

The 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the attack of the U.S. embassy there the year before, as well as the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, all bore the imprint of the Islamic Republic. The 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran and the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie clearly did. Indeed, the whole point of Tehran’s policy of terror is to lay claim to its actions and dare the United States to respond—which Washington doesn’t. What Ayatollah Khomeini said about the embassy hostage crisis more than 30 years ago still holds true: “The Americans can’t do a damn thing about it.” Admitting Iran’s involvement in repeated acts of terror would require the United States to act—something American policymakers believe that we are unable to do.

But the reality is that the United States can do something about it, if Washington wanted to. American taxpayers would be rightly aggrieved that our defense budget is so high if our elected leaders can’t stop an adversary that speedboats to harass a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and includes Toyota pick-up trucks in its order of battle. Surely the far-superior American military is capable of bringing Iran’s armed forces to heel.

The problem is that Obama’s White House, like George W. Bush’s, fears that taking too active a role against Iran and its assets will put U.S. military personnel at risk of Iranian retaliation in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to some U.S. intelligence estimates, Shiite Iran is responsible for far more American deaths and injuries in America’s two Middle East combat theaters than al-Qaida or other Sunni factions. That means that American strategists, civilian and military, no longer consider the U.S. military a deterrent to Iranian actions; rather, the presence of American troops in theaters where the Iranians also operate has effectively deterred the United States from taking action against Tehran.

U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Washington’s policy of not confronting Iran about its openly aggressive behavior have created a situation in which our troops are now effectively being held hostage, a situation that Iran underlines with each new act of aggression and terror. Which is why U.S. policymakers cannot recognize the pending withdrawal from Iraq—or what is effectively the liberation of many thousands of American hostages—as an opportunity to go after Iran. Instead, Washington will continue to wage clandestine operations against Tehran—like killing Iranian nuclear scientists and sabotaging Iranian centrifuges with a computer worm. None of those operations will stop the Islamic Republic from getting the bomb—rather, that secret war, presumably conducted in tandem with Israel, is meant only to deter the Jewish state from attacking Iran in earnest.

Yes, the Iranians hate the Saudis, who reciprocate the sentiment, and the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, targeted in the disrupted plot, seems especially detested by the Islamic Republic. As the WikiLeaks cables showed, it was al-Jubeir who reminded U.S. diplomats that Saudi King Abdullah “told you to cut off the head of the snake,” meaning Iran. The point of the Iranian plot was to show that the Americans are incapable of protecting their allies, even in the U.S. capital. But as mad as the Saudis are at Washington for not doing anything about the Iranians, sometime down the road they’ll be prepared to grit their teeth and cut a bargain with their foe. There is no such deal in the offing for the Jewish state.

More to the point, the Iranians recognize that unlike Saudi Arabia, Israel is capable of doing something about the Islamic Republic’s ambitions. In the last five years, Jerusalem has waged war against two of Tehran’s clients, Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and Hamas in the winter of 2008-09. Also, it’s worth remembering that the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center there were retaliations for Israel’s assassination of Hezbollah’s then-leader Abbas Mussawi. (Iran and Hezbollah left their fingerprints on those operations, too. The issue in Argentina was not insufficient evidence but police and prosecutorial incompetence.)

If the only country able and willing to go after Iran’s nuclear program is Israel, the only one who is capable of stopping the Israelis, Tehran realizes, is the United States. And so Iran and the United States now find themselves in one of the Middle East’s oddest alliances, with the United States unwittingly aiding Iran in its effort to get the bomb. If this happens, Tehran will use this new weapon to remake the political map of the Middle East in ways that are very unlikely to benefit the United States, and will directly threaten the survival of its closest ally.

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Shalom Freedman says:

I share Lee Smith’s sense of urgency in regard to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I also believe that the U.S. has been too passive in its non- reaction to the Iranian part in attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also know President Bush promised to stop the Iranian program and instead stopped Prime Minister Olmert from attacking Iran. I know too there is a serious effort being made by the U.S. in regard to sanctions against Iran.
The U.S. has also reportedly supplied Israel with ‘bunker-buster’ bombs which would be extremely useful in any attack on Iranian nuclear sites.
I do not know however where the whole matter stands now, how close Iran is to being a turn of the screw away from a nuclear weapon. I also have no idea of what military options if any the U.S. is contemplating. I also do not know whether an Israeli military operation would actually be able to do the job. It is clear that the U.S. is in a better position to do this, though it would be Israel which would pay the price in the missiles, Hizbollah, Hamas, perhaps Syria, Iran would aim at Israel.
I am deeply concerned about the situation, and believe it critical that Iran be stopped.
I however do not think it is fair to say the U.S. is ‘in alliance’ with Iran. It is perhaps not reacting vigorously enough but it certainly aims to prevent Iran from attaining the incredibly great destructive capacity of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately for the US and more so for Israel, the US is a much weaker country, militarily, financially and politically than it was a decade ago, when we thought we could go to war and cut taxes at the same time. The days of the US as policeman of the world are coming to a close. Israel will have to learn to deal with this, or not. Maybe it is finally time for the Haredi to get out of the wagon and help push, instead of expecting ongoing subsidies from the government while they study their holy books and expecting others to do the fighting for them.

Since it’s earliest history the hands of the United States have been stained with repeated incursions into the affairs (as well as the boundries) of too many countries. Regardless of US policy towards Israel it seems to me that Israel needs to depend more on itself and less on the money, power, and dwindling ‘good will’ of the United States. We have spent ourselves bankrupt conducting two unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time to step back from the political and economic ruin we have created and to start sowing seeds of good will to the world rather than throwing bombs and killing civilians.

No surprise here. Obama’s allegiance is to himself and Islam. Until the american public wake up to this fact he will continue to tear down the republic. His #1 goal is to destroy Israel. # 2 USA control by sharia. Saturday people first and sunday people second.

Willy is correct. The majority of the American Jewish population will continue to pour money and other support into Osama’s campaign. It doesn’t matter what the poser in the White House does, they will continue to support him because he is a Democrat.

brynababy says:

To Willy and Ann, I say, your hatefulness and ignorance are astounding– your distortions, sickening.

byrnbaby, you are in denial about your guy in the White House.

why doesn’t Saudi go ahead and cut off the head of the snake instead of going after Baharaini’s? until a muslim corrupt “god fearing” country goes after Iran, Iran will continue to annoy, irritate, bully and worse Israel & the US in any way they can. They are movig in to Latin America and have been for decades. What is it going to take for the US as a society and government to realize that instead of either sticking our head in the sand in the hopes they go away or pretending to “get tough”, we need to say to our supposedly good friends the Turks and the Saudi’s: ya don’t like it? then take all that money we pay you to be our friend and all that weaponry you use on your own civilians and bomb the sh*&^ out Iran on your own dime. It’s not our job to do your dirty work.

As always, Israel is ready to fight to the last American soldier.

What is it Israel demands the U.S. performs? A military air campaign against a large number of secret locations inside will be fruitless, a land campaign is not possible for reasons of treasury, not to mention that the troops are not available.

I understand well that Israel can not defang Iran on its own; a military that could not defeat Hezbolah in 2006 will certainly be ineffective in a campaign against Iran.

Dan O. says:

Is this article serious? I think Lee Smith has immersed himself too much into the culture of Middle Eastern power struggles, and he’s projecting that culture on to the United States. He’s basically reversing the perspective he usually decries. Why should we see the world that way?

If we’re not saber-rattling, we’re allies with Iran? Seriously? Stop with the hashish, Smitty-boy. Incidentally, have you ever heard of good-cop/bad-cop? President Obama is a master of it. As usual, he’s smarter than his critics.

Wacky wacky wacky.

If Israel wants to be the Lone Ranger then it can just ride high hi ho silver and do whatever it deems needs be done completely on its own, solo and alone.

Suck up some more of that pit stop paranoia with a silly straw, it just gets cycled and recycled as effervescently as soda pop.

If and when the sane cut Iran down to size AF, IQ, LE, GZ, SY and so much more will be solved to a large degree. Iran is a hairy, smelly, festering wound of 1930′s fascist insanity cruising for a bruising. And we all know what got the job done in the thirties and forties. That’s right children. Arial Bombing raids!

The US and others have had years to fine tune their weapons for the conditions found in Iran’s nuclear sites. A sustained bombing campaign with stand off weapons will pull down Iran’s trousers in public. Their machismo will be exposed as nothing more than the usual impotent nationalist Muslim rhetoric.
Only a dead fascist is a good fascist.
” Nuke ‘em till they glow. “

Oh, I remember the good old days when the Bush administration did….nothing substantive about Iran. Aside from Bolton bluster, what has changed? It’s not worth going to war over (for America, Israel needs ot weigh it’s options and do….oh, right, nothing. Shot its wade on Stunex, and now it talks suprrisingly little about Iran), so sanctions promoted by the Obama administration is about as good as it gets. Another anti-Obama hack piece undr the guise of Jewish wisdom.

Neshebber Nefesh says:

I don’t know what to say to the Right anymore. “[T]he United States has become the Islamic Republic’s key ally in its march toward a nuclear bomb” Really? More than Russia and China, which have run interference for Iran in the international community and have busted so many attempts at sanctions? More than North Korea, which supplies Iran with military hardware?

The United States, which has just armed Israel with bunker-busters is Iran’s “key ally”?!

Let me remind the Obama-bashers here that the Beirut barracks bombing took place under Reagan and Khobar under Clinton. Guess they were also key allies of Iran.

Finally, the author claims that the Iranians are deliberately goading the Americans by leaving their fingerprints all over their operations. Guess that’s why the Iranians take such pains to cover their operations up. It’s a bit like saying the Americans were out to goad the Reds during the Cold War by leaving their fingerprints all over their operations. Makes no sense.

The premise here is that the Obama Administration views Israel as an ally. Frankly, while previous Administrations since Nixon have indeed viewed Israel as a cornerstone of American policy in the Mideast, I doubt the same holds true for the current occupant of the White House and his Secretary of State. Indeed, it’s just as likely that this Administration is looking to counter balance a nuclear-armed Israel in the hopes that a weakened Israel, and one under an Iranian nuclear threat, will accept less than ideal terms for a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian issue which has always been this Administrations top foreign policy priority. Seen in this light, the Administrations lack of interest in an Iranian nuclear capability is not a manifestation of incompetence but of design.

US has a strong history of showing back to its allies, US did the same with Europe, Veitnam, Japan, Iraq and now Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Israel. But this strategy of americans is now exposed, so now it will be US who will be left alone in the atlantic and will be isolated from the world soon. What US did with other countries is coming back to it now.

tehmeh says:

Why should the US view Israel as an ally, when in fact Israel is an unneeded burden on American resources.The only true nuclear threat in the middle east is Israel. Whole lotta stupid in this article.

A red line is being reached. The divine timetable will trump all others. The only way forward is vision, courage and trust building. Time to hold the stalled NPT Conference in Jerusalem. Good date is Monday, April 23rd, 2012. Call it an International Peace Conference. A “Commitee to Oversee the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons by 2025″ could be formed. The IPC would cost about $600 million. This a fraction of the potential benefits. (Take note cynical Israelis !) All 193 nations would contribute. I know the : What; Where; When; Why; Who; Cost; Duration and How. The main focus of the IPC would be the elimination of nuclear weapons on Planet Earth. If invitations were sent out by Dec. 1st, with an RSVP date by Jan.10th, 2012 then this would give the promoter 103 days to organise the IPC. The date would also dovetail in well before the July/August Olympics in London. A one week conference would be followed by all the lines of communication to be opened up and a certain command and control strucutre observed. The collective focus on the elimination of nuclear wepaons track would allow many other international issues of importance to be dealt with over the coming years and decades. The key is capitalising on the existing chains of trust that now exist. The IAEA could also be moved to Israel/Palestine. Do not pay lip service to this proposal of mine. G-d approves of the plan.

To paraphrase a well know sports brand…

“Just do it !”

A red line is being reached. The divine timetable will trump all others. The only way forward is vision, courage and trust building. Time to hold the stalled NPT Conference in Jerusalem. Good date is Monday, April 23rd, 2012. Call it an International Peace Conference. A “Commitee to Oversee the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons by 2025″ could be formed. The IPC would cost about $600 million. This is a fraction of the potential benefits. (Take note cynical Israelis !) All 193 nations would contribute. I know the : What; Where; When; Why; Who; Cost; Duration and How. The main focus of the IPC would be the elimination of nuclear weapons on Planet Earth. If invitations were sent out by Dec. 1st, with an RSVP date by Jan. 10th, 2012 then this would give the promoter 103 days to organise the IPC. The date would also dovetail in well before the July/August Olympics in London. A one week conference would immediately be followed by a time when all the lines of communication would be opened up and a certain command and control structure observed. The collective focus on the elimination of nuclear wepaons track would allow many other international issues of importance to be dealt with over the coming years and decades. The key is capitalising on the existing chains of trust that now exist. The IAEA could also be moved to Israel/Palestine. Do not pay lip service to this proposal of mine. G-d approves of the plan.

To paraphrase a well know sports brand…

“Just do it !”

As an American Jew, I am glad that the Obama Administration does not act with the belligerence of Likud.

Some commenters (Willy, Ann, Lauren, Shalom, et al) appear to believe that evangelical extremists who generally disdain Judaism, but are aligned with the Israeli ultra-right are more concerned with the best interests of Jews than actual Jews.

If you want Israel to become the Jewish analog to the Islamic Republic, congratulations, you’re on your way. Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu are way more likely and capable of destroying the Israeli state than Ahmadinejad could ever hope to be.

this is an ignorant article. As an American, I take extreme offense at the accusation that America cannot protect its own citizen and its guests. Also, the last statement ” . . . will directly threaten the survival of its closest ally [Israel]” is wrong. While it may be reciprocally true, Israel is not Americas closest or most important ally. America can do and would to better without Israel tagging along. Israel is like that little dog that barks at bigger dogs and then runs behind its owners (America’s) legs.

Mike Murray says:

Many Americans think that Israel is perfectly capable of acting as an ‘agent provacateur’ to bait us into a war with Iran which we neither need or want.

To Israel: Do it yourself. Sane Americans are weary of war.

santosh says:

The American psyche has for years been influenced by the Jewish lobby; this article is a prime example of how lies and misinformation are spread via the print media. The logic and tone of the article are school boyish.
A lot if literature is available on the net from more trustworthy sources, e.g., the NY Times, Washington Post, to name two to rebut the nonsense in the above article, readers would be well advised to refer to those.
However, a few facts that are undisputed: Israel is the only nuclear power (as of now) in the Middle East, Israel is guilty of occupying Palestine (see http://ifamericansknew.org/), America has a military presence practically all over the Gulf (most importantly in Iraq), America is in the Middle East for its oil and to make Israel safe and that Iran cannot feel secure in the current scenario.
It could very well be that Iran is pursuing a nuclear device, given its security concerns, and the saber rattling from the US–Israel combine. Why has Mr. Smith not dwelt upon it? Why has he not dwelt upon the fact that America should not be in the Middle East in the first place? (Please have a look at the map to see the geographical distance between the US and the Middle East (or Afghanistan for that matter) to realize the insanity.)
Mr. Smith’s arguments evolve form a perceived position of superiority, unmindful of the logic of the other side; his position as a senior editor and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies do not mean a thing. If he’s used the same blinkered logic to pen a book, God help those readers who have read his work and have been influenced by it!

Tom Bingaman says:

Obama makes me sick to think he is leading
our country.
The Jewish people have my sincerest apologies for the remarks and lack of support they get from this very poor president. Obama makes me ashamed to call
him my president.

empire9 says:

Iran’s military is 10 times bigger and stronger than Iraq’s.

Plus, from history – Iran will bring the war to the US soil in the form of terrorism at a much much bigger scale.

About Isreal? There must be a reason why every single country hastes them!

If US starts another war in Iran – we can guarantee that our economy will be sent back to the stone age.

john small says:

isreal is greedy and unwilling to even apologize for killing a neighboring countries people…no respect and selfish, concerned w/whatever benifits isereal. america is the same but its people have arose and said enough is enough.you would destroy america for your own interests.the enemys that isreal has created lies soley on them.appologize…give back whats not rightfully isreals and strive for redemtion for selfish evil.stop lying and speak truth.isreal has no other allies other than u.s. … i wonder why.take your cake and eat it too

Blame it on the Russians or Chinese, they are always against helping the people. Just look at Syria and Yemen they would not even condem the innocent being murdered there. All the African union does is offer empty words and ideas to solve the problems there too. So in all reality don’t blame America. Blame the Russians, Chinese and the African/Arab union for always looking out for business/trade interests instead of the peoples interest. If it was up to China and Russia Ghaddafi would still be using mercenaries, jets, tanks, helicopters against people who had none of that. Russia, China and the African/Arab union= one big joke.

I am wondering about the possibility of deep penetration neutron bombs as being the only way to multiply Israeli force on par with Iran. It may not destroy everything, but could render the site hot enough humans couldn’t get to the deep underground labs.

Dani ben Lev says:

nuke ‘em already or get of the pot.

Every country has a right to have whatever it wants,if some countries has nuclear weapons why not Tehran?Doesn’t have that right to posses?

upendra awasthi says:

Think about how to establish peace and confidence for harmonious existence of asversaries by resolving disputes by mutual settlements to divert resources from prearation of war to peacefuk progress and development of people with values in which they believe without becoming threat for those who do not share their belief.

Gary Rice says:

This should not be an issue we use to rally the US Republican party to Romney. We should be concerned that Israel will act to defend itself against an avowed hateful aggressor.

The Obama Administration would rather not have this Iranian Intransigence evolve into an out of control Nuclear Confrontation which can only end with a true unequivocal victor.

Israel does not want this to happen. However, they will never allow themselves to be threatened by a Nuclear Iran.

What is Obama supposed to do? DROP THE BIG ONE ? PLAY TOUGH ?

The man is trying to prevent World War III.

Give the man a chance.

Ancalagon says:

 Ah, shut up, you delusional dunghead. I’m sick and tired of idiots like you that falsely portrayed Obama as a Muslim and how he’s going to bring Sharia Law on American soil.

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Looming Threat

By refusing to directly confront Iran’s provocations, the United States has become the Islamic Republic’s key ally in its march toward a nuclear bomb

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