Speaking to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee March 4, 70-year-old Vice President Joe Biden told the power pro-Israel lobby that President Barack Obama was not bluffing when it comes to Iran. Feverishly enriching uranium, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worries that Iran has become dangerously close to its first A-bomb. With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel, Netanyahu takes Iran’s nuclear program seriously. Calling Iran an “existential threat” to the Jewish State, Netanyahu has warned of possible unilateral air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Speaking to AIPAC, Biden insisted that all non-military options would have to be exhausted before the U.S. would consider aggression action against Iran. Since he spoke at the U.N. Sept. 28, Netanyahu has asked the U.S. for “red lines” or go-points for military action.
Speaking to the same group via video-feed from Jerusalem, Netanyahu told the delegates that rhetoric alone is not enough to stop Iran. “Words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail,” said Netanyahu to loud cheers at the D.C.-based policy conference. While understanding that the U.S. just ended the Iraq War Dec. 31, 2011 and hopes to end the Afghan War in 2014, Netanyahu wants the U.S. to present a credible military threat to Iran. Republicans in the Senate Armed Services Committee ripped recently confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for equivocating about the Iranian military option. Despite Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs, Netanyahu cannot speak with any certainty about Iran’s timetable or technical know-how to build an A-bomb.
U.S. nuclear experts have not bought Netanyahu’s urgency over Iran’s current nuclear program. While it’s true that Iran continues to enrich uranium, that’s a far cry from weaponizing uranium or creating a usable nuclear device. Frustrated with the latest round of U.N. nuclear talks with Iran in Kazakhstan last week, Netanyahu hopes to share his frustrations when Obama visits Tel Aviv for the first time.later this month. Netanyahu walks a tightrope pandering to right and left wing groups trying desperately to get a governing coalition. By the time Obama comes to town, Netanyahu should have cobbled together enough seats in the Knesset for a workable government. Pushing for military action prematurely could turn off Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatunah Party from joining Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Netanyahu can’t push too hard now for military action against Tehran..
Biden spoke to AIPAC to reassure pro-Israel lobby that Obama was on the same page when it comes to national security. “President Barack Obama is not bluffing,” Biden told AIPAC delegates. “We are not looking for war. We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully. But all options, including military force, are on the table,” said Biden, hoping to reverse negative GOP propaganda about Barack or his recently confirmed Defense Secretary. Netanyahu has a real problem not overstating the nuclear case against Iran. Before the Iraq War, the public was treated to the former Bush administration’s hyperbole about the late Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. With a the stakes for a new Persian Gulf War high, the U.S. can’t afford another major foreign policy blunder. No U.S. president can rubber stamp an Israeli Prime Minister’s grave concerns.
Netanyahu wants White House to set up “red lines” which would trigger a U.S. or Israeli military strike. Most nuclear experts believe that because Iran’s enrichment sites are deeply fortified and buried underground, above-ground strikes would have little value reversing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Starting a new Persian Gulf War would have draconic implications on world oil prices, potentially doubling U.S. pump prices. While five-power-plus-one nuclear talks in Kazakhstan produced no breakthroughs, all sides agreed on more talks. Netanyahu views Iran as buying more time to complete the nuclear fuel cycle. “The latest efforts at conciliation and some kind of agreement with the Iranian’s have failed,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s very clear that they are on the path to having a nuclear weapon.,” heaping more pressure on Obama to heed Netanyahu’s request for “red lines.”
Biden’s attempts to placate AIPAC raise worrisome concerns regarding the prospects of war with Iran. White House national security officials don’t want to make the same mistake in Iran that the Bush administration made in Iraq, namely, getting into an unnecessary and avoidable war. Losing 4,886 soldiers and spending over $1 trillion in Iraq should sober the Obama administration up about the real consequences of war. Unlike Iraq where the fallout of war could be confined within Iraqi borders, a new Persian Gulf War would have global economic consequences. With 25% of the world oil supply passing through the Gulf, any military action could have catastrophic consequences on the world economy. No matter what Netanyahu or hawks in the U.S. want, Obama and his new Defense Secretary must work hard to sober up the U.S. Congress and close U.S. allies.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.