Choosing his words very carefully, President Obama today ratcheted up the U.S. threat against Iran by committing the United States to military action if diplomacy fails.
You may think he had already done this, but he hasn’t. His previous words always left a careful way out. But not his time.
Whether Obama can be trusted to follow through is unclear. This is the same president who is moving too quickly out of Afghanistan and who moved too fully out of Iraq. But there is now U.S. guarantee, forfeited only at massive loss to U.S. credibility, to go to war against Iran if talks to end the Mullahs’ quests for nuclear weapons fail.
The new policy was spelled out in one seemingly simple phrase which, as far as I’m aware, has not been uttered by Obama before:
“The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Look closely at what he is saying. We WILL do what we must. It’s a commitment. It says we will do what is needed to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.
Previous statements have included carefully non-committal phrases with which you are probably familiar, like “our policy is not to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” and “all options on the table” and “we’re not going to tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of this Iranian regime.”
Note the difference. There are plenty of things I refuse to tolerate that go on every day. The United States doesn’t “tolerate” Bashir Assad’s slaughter of his people, or famine imposed by the North Korean regime. What’s more, we have “policies” opposing these things. And yet they continue to occur.
We have never decided that it is in U.S. interests or capabilities to do what we must to put and end to such things, and that’s why they continue.
But now we will do what we must with respect to Iran.
Obama put the world on notice today that we’re going to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by bombing it. Personally, I think he is probably serious. One of his core beliefs is that the world must be rid of nuclear weapons, and allowing Iran to have them will cause the number of nukes to multiply, not decline.
This is exactly the rationale he offered at the UN for preventing the Mullahbomb:
We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty.
But will Obama have the fortitude to make the “gutsy move” required to attack Iran? With no progress on the negotiation front in sight, the Israelis may not be willing to risk waiting much longer to find out.