By Alan Caruba
On Sunday, March 4, President Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. As February concluded on a Leap Year day, I opined that Israel and Iran were largely engaged in a war of words, noting briefly the military difficulties involved should Israel launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and other targets.
One American general quoted in my commentary estimated it would take a thousand sorties by air to have a decisive impact. That leaves the question of whether, in fact, Israel would have to attack on its own or whether, in fact, Obama’s AIPAC speech was intended to send a message to Tehran that such an attack would include an American component.
Obama emphasized his belief that “sanctions and diplomacy” will achieve an Iranian retreat from its long-stated goal of acquiring nuclear parity for itself, but it is fundamentally Iran’s goal of “wiping Israel off the map” that will determine the outcome of the current war of words.
That war of words heated up considerably on Sunday.
I was reminded of what George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003. “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
What we know is that Iran is hell-bent on putting a nuclear warhead on the tip of a long-range missile and firing it at Israel.
What we know is that Israel must prevent this if it is to survive.
What we don’t know with certainty, despite the President’s speech to AIPAC, is whether America would engage Iran militarily in collaboration with Israel.
In addition to winding down U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has not had any luck getting the nations of the Middle East to accept his many apologies or diplomatic efforts to reduce any of the conflicts and tensions in the region. Indeed, on his watch, he has witnessed a failed 2009 Iranian people’s protest against its leaders. There have also been insurrections that overthrew Tunisia’s, Libya’s and Egypt’s long-term dictators that took everyone by surprise.
The so-called “Arab spring” is still shrouded in Rumsfeld’s many “unknowns.” Few seem particularly hopeful.
What struck me most forcefully were the words of Israel’s president Simon Peres, a man who has devoted 65 years of his life to establishing, defending, and building Israel. He began by thanking the President “for being such a good friend” to Israel.
The former Israeli foreign minister did not use the language of diplomacy. “Iran is an evil, cruel regime. Iran is a danger to the entire world. It must be stopped and it will be stopped.”
“President Obama,” said Peres, “made it clear that Iran will never become nuclear. There is no space between us.” He concluded saying, “Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound. We have a friend in the White House.”
If the president of Israel feels this way, it is hard to believe that it is not so..
The problem for myself and many Americans is that we have witnessed how mercurial Obama has been; how inclined to deception he is to get his way even in the face of significant opposition to his legislative agenda and other policies.
This is why my antenna lighted up when I heard Obama cite Israel’s “ability to defend itself, by itself.” By itself? By itself, military analysts are in general agreement that Israel’s chances of effectively knocking out Iran’s nuclear and military assets are relatively slim.
“There should not be a shred of doubt,” said Obama, “When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”
Coming from any other President that would seem to be a conclusive statement of support, including military support.
But President Obama is not like any other President this nation has ever known.
He has brought America to the brink of financial collapse. He has demonstrated considerable sympathy and affinity with Muslim nations. It is doubtful that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has much faith in his promises.
The “unknowns”, of course, are the secret discussions between the Israeli government and our own at this point.
Unknown, too, is the hubris of the Iranian leadership who believe they are directed by Allah to destroy Israel and to establish and lead a new Islamic caliphate to rule the world. Those are dangerous beliefs, but there is no doubt that Iran’s leaders have been guided by them since 1979.
For these reasons, there remains only the hope that President Obama’s promises are not writ on water.