WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) – Less than a week after Republicans made major gains in the U.S. midterm elections, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on President Barack Obama to “create a credible threat of military action” against Iran.
Initial official reaction was negative, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisting that Obama’s preferred strategy of enhanced multilateral sanctions and negotiations, which may resume after a year’s hiatus later this month, was working better than expected.
According to diplomatic sources, Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing government and its allies here, including hawkish Republicans who will take control of the House of Representatives in January, are preparing to escalate pressure on Mr. Obama to adopt a more confrontational stance with Tehran.
“I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs, to end its nuclear weapons program,” Mr. Gates said when asked about Netanyahu’s remarks during a visit in Australia.
According to diplomatic sources quoted in the Israeli and U.S. press, Mr. Netanyahu’s appeal came during a Nov. 7 meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden in New Orleans. It suggests that his right-wing government and its allies here, including hawkish Republicans who will take control of the House of Representatives in January, are preparing to escalate pressure on Mr. Obama to adopt a more confrontational stance with Tehran.
Indeed, even as Mr. Netanyahu was telling Mr. Biden, according to the anonymous sources, that “only a real military threat against Iran can prevent the need to activate a real military force,” Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, a leading national-security spokesman for his party, told an international conference in Halifax, Canada, that Mr. Obama would help his own re-election chances in 2012 if he made “abundantly clear that all options (to Iran) are on the table”–a phrase that is associated with taking military action.
And if Tehran actually developed a nuclear weapon, he said, Mr. Obama should act “not to just neutralize their nuclear program, …but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard. In other words, neuter that regime. Destroy their ability to fight back.”
The rhetorical escalation by both Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters here comes amid diplomatic jockeying between Iran and the so-called P5+1–the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany–over the site and agenda of a meeting that both sides have said they hope will take place later this month.
Along with Brazil, Turkey had secured Iran’s agreement last spring to a proposal, originally put forward as a confidence-building measure by the P5+1 a year ago, to ship a substantial amount of its growing stockpile of low-enriched uranium outside the country for enrichment to the 20 percent level needed to fuel a nuclear plant in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
The Turkey-Brazil deal, however, was summarily rejected by the Obama administration and its European allies on the grounds that Tehran had added significantly to its stockpile in the previous six months.
While Netanyahu and his supporters here are dismissing as insufficient Obama’s strategy of sanctions and talks, two centrist think tanks urged the administration to place more emphasis on engaging the Islamic Republic.
In addition, a new paper released by the bipartisan Iran Task Force convened by the Atlantic Council on the evolution of internal Iranian politics, particularly since last year’s disputed elections, called for Washington to pursue “strategic patience” with Tehran “and avoid overreactions that could set back Iran’s political development.”
With sympathetic Republicans taking over the House of Representatives, the Israeli government appears confident it can press for more.
But war talk was denounced as “dangerous” Nov. 8 by the Atlantic Council’s chairman, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, who also co-chairs Mr. Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, as well as the Council’s Iran task force. “If you’re going to threaten war on any kind of consistent basis, then you’d better be prepared to follow through on that (threat),” he said.
“The United States of America is currently in two of the longest wars we’ve ever been in … at a very significant cost to this country. … I’m not sure the people of the United States want to do a third war,” he said.
- Senator Joe Lieberman to push for Iran war resolution? (NIACouncil.org, 11-17-2010)
- Jews increasingly hawkish on Iran, skeptical of Obama (FCN, 10-22-2010)
- The Zionist-Jewish Stranglehold over US media (The New Nation, 07-25-2010)
- Israeli push for Iranian sanctions losing legitimacy (FCN, 06-27-2010)
- Shame on America and the United Nations (FCN Editorial, 06-21-2010)
- Brazil-Turkey Deal with Iran frustrates belligerent U.S. policy (FCN, 05-21-2010)