Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran?


by Sunny Hundal    
9:05 am - March 6th 2012

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Arguably, last week involved was the hardest high-wire act for the American President for years. The Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was over for the AIPAC conference and he wanted serious concessions.

An attack on Iran by Israel was virtually certain I warned a few days ago.

Things may look different in a few months time but I think there is slim chance Obama has averted war in the near future. Here are the highlights of the past few days.

Obama gave a long, tough-sounding interview to The Atlantic magazine saying that he would do all in his power to stop Iran getting nukes. But also made the case for diplomacy over war.

Israeli President Shimon Peres went on a peace offensive ahead of the conference, saying there would be no war.

At AIPAC, Obama gave a Congressional Medal of Honour to Shimon Peres, most likely to bolster his hand and his pro-peace voice. His speech did not say anything new, other than criticise “loose talk of war”.

Netanyahu in contrast said ‘None of us can afford to wait much longer’ and invoked Auschwitz. He also re-iterated his view that Israel would not warn the USa in case of an attack.

At AIPAC and after, Netanyahu did not take a shot at Obama, and did not say ‘we need action right now’ – but isn’t backing away from inflammatory talk.

All this says to me that war is averted, for now. Plus, the Iranian elections have significantly weakened Ahmadenijad – making it more difficult for him to sound belligerent. The Ayatollah is more against nuclear weapons than he is.

But we’re only in March. September – when an attack on Iran would cause maximum damage to Obama’s re-election prospects – is still very likely.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

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Reader comments


1. Bill Kristol-Balls

Hope it was a kosher meal of honour.

Tomasky over at TDB thinks war is inevitable now Obama has ruled out containment.

Timescale is a different matter though.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/06/obama-s-no-containment-aipac-speech-made-war-with-iran-inevitable.html

So gullible. The entire process is an orchestrated good cop bad cop routine. Don’t want to blow your mind Sunny, but the EU and Arab states are also in on it. The truth is there isn’t really anyone except gullible liberals and the SWP (No one significant) who is privately in favour of taking strategic bombing off the negotiation table. That probably includes Russia, in my estimation.

“But we’re only in March. September – when an attack on Iran would cause maximum damage to Obama’s re-election prospect”

Qualify this? Your political speciality (political positioning and branding) has very little to do with the realities of foreign policy on defense matters anyway. You should be more interested in the operational constraints. Anyway, would partially destroying a rogue states nuclear facilities cost him votes? You have to consider the US electorate consits of more than the Daily Kos.

By the way, the article you reference has absolutely zero evidence, and I mean zero, that suggests the Ayatollah does not support the nuclear weapons strategy. It doesn’t even make a strong case he is less enthusiastic. I mean, it is proper bury your head in the sand stuff that.

Good grief. If Obama wants to stop an attack on Iran he only has to pull Israel’s leash (as One Term Daddy Bush did, which is perhaps why he won’t). Instead he indulges Israeli paranoia and bullying and at the same time reinforces the demonisation of Iran. That might be the way to win a Nobel Peace Prize, but it doesn’t produce a convincing portait of a genuine peacemaker.

4. Charlieman

@3. Briar: “Good grief.”

The final cogent remark.

“If Obama wants to stop an attack on Iran he only has to pull Israel’s leash (as One Term Daddy Bush did, which is perhaps why he won’t).”

Israel and the USA are independent countries. Co-operation does not mean dependency.

“Instead he indulges Israeli paranoia and bullying and at the same time reinforces the demonisation of Iran.”

Israel has reasons to be afraid of its neighbours, and the reasons do not deserve to be disparaged as paranoia.

Iran is demonised by civilised people because it abuses its own citizens and wishes to abuse neighbours.

“That might be the way to win a Nobel Peace Prize, but it doesn’t produce a convincing portait of a genuine peacemaker.”

I do not understand that comment.

5. Just Visiting

> The Ayatollah is more against nuclear weapons than he is.

So Sunny, is that like the Libyan rebels telling western journalists that they wanted to work together, wanted democracy not Sharia law, didn’t want partisan reprisal attacks?

Yet what do we see happening in Libya right now?

The Libyan rebels wanted NATO air cover, so lied to avoid losing it.

The Ayatollah wants to get the sanctions stopped, and get off the pariah nation list.
So today, he’s saying what he thinks will maximise that.

Whether it is really what he thinks?

You really believe the issue here is Israeli warmongering and Israel launching an attack on Iran? Christ Almighty. Only as a pre-emptive strike could this be even remotely plausible. What does Israel want? To be left alone. What does the Iranian theocracy and its puppet nutcase President want? To wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. In the circumstances an unprovoked attack by the latter on the former is far more likely than the other way round.

7. flyingrodent

In the circumstances an unprovoked attack by the latter on the former is far more likely than the other way round.

Now, recent history on wars in the region – provoked, unprovoked, whatever – does really suggest that you’ve got this the wrong way round.

It’s difficult to pin down the last time Iran started a war, but it’s looking a bit like they were still called “Persia” when they did it.

8. brian routh

Netanyahu is a war monger and a nut job…of course he will pull the old holocaust card and anything else to justify his desire for power and to attack Iran and spread his rogue nation even further into the middle east.

9. So Much For Subtlety

The Ayatollah is more against nuclear weapons than he is.

I don’t know where to begin on the wrongness of referring to the Ayatollah. But as the Iranian nuclear programme – which involved them buying nuclear weapon designs from Pakistan – goes back to the days of the Ayatollah Khomeini, it is not obvious to me that Ahmadenajid’s views on this subject are relevant. It long pre-dates him. He is a fig leaf. Not anyone of substance. If Iran has a nuclear weapons programme, and it does, it is because of the support of the clerical establishment.

Let`s hope so.

Goodness, how polite everybody is here!

An I/P discussion without vitriol and personal insults.

I think I must be visiting the wrong site :)

All Obama needs to do is say that he’ll stop all American support for Israel if they attack Iran. It’s not hard, so we shouldn’t give Obama any credit if he gets bounced into a war.

13. Just Visiting

Chris

> All Obama needs to do is say that he’ll stop all American support for Israel if they attack Iran.

So you actually want the USA to dictate to another country what to do ?

And you expect Israel to obey?

Just like Pakistan do what the USA want? Pakistan get $Bns in aid from the USA, but not sure it buys obedience.

@3 If Obama wants to stop an attack on Iran he only has to pull Israel’s leash (as One Term Daddy Bush did, which is perhaps why he won’t).

That’s a gross uncharacteristisation of what actually happened.

During the first Gulf War, the occupation of Kuwait, Iraq launched scud missiles at Israel.

Israel was not a party to the attack on Iraq, nor was it a part of the coalition to liberate Kuwait, yet 42 Scud missiles were launched at Israel, killing civilians and with the aim of provoking an Israeli counter-attack that would bring other Arab states into the war in support of Iraq.

Israel was not a member of the coalition. It was, to all intents and purposes, neutral during the Gulf War.

And yet it was attacked anyway. Because of who they were, what the country represented and for the purposes of geopolitical PR.

That, for the first time in it’s history, Israel did not retaliate is remarkable. Partly, this was indeed due to US pleading, fearing a drastic escalation of the conflict, in line with the Iraqi intent to bring in intervening moderate Arab states, but also because the retaliation they had threatened Iraq with was nuclear. And once you begin making nuclear first strikes against your enemies, you’re entering a very different world.

But one we came *very* close to in 1991.

In fact, from the official DOD report:-

“Iraq fired 42 Scuds that reached Israel or nearby areas of Jordan beginning on January 18, 1991. Iraq launched these missiles from Western Iraq against three general target areas ‘ Tel Aviv, Haifa, and the Negev Desert in Southern Israel, specifically, Dimona where Israel had a nuclear facility.[127] Figure 6 summarizes the general impact areas for these strikes. Those hitting in the West Bank of Jordan presumably fell short of their intended targets in Israel proper.”

and

“In 1995, Iraq admitted to UNSCOM inspectors that it had produced the biological warfare agents anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin.[41] Inspectors found that Iraq had launched a crash program in December 1990 to field weapons with BW agents to include artillery shells and some Al Hussein Scuds. Iraq claimed they never used such weapons because the United States sent them a message implying that if Iraq used chemical or biological weapons, the United States would counterattack with nuclear weapons. According to Iraq, Israeli officials sent a similar message.”

Iraq was deterred. They took the threat seriously. But not seriously enough, it seems, to not attack at all, just not with chemical or biological agents.

But of course, that’s Iraq, not Iran; the thing is, Iran is even *more* ideologically opposed to Israel (rather than just by virtue of political expedience via appeals to Arab nationalism) than Iraq was. And unlike Iraq, they do have a civilian nuclear program in operation. And they have declared open hostility to Israel and denied it’s right to exist.

Combine that with their antics messing around with foreign shipping in international waters and increasing aggressiveness in the Gulf of Hormuz.

Were Iran to obtain a working nuclear device, there is more reason than not to believe that they would use it, or give it to a third party or proxy like Hezzbollah.

Their millitary stance is aggressive and they have a recent history of not behaving rationally or responsibly.

I’m no fan of Israeli policy, either domestically or internationally, but they cannot be expected to allow the existential threat of an Iranian nuclear capability any more than the Americans could have been expected to put up with 140 nuclear warheads 90 miles off the coast of Florida under the control of an aggressive foreign power with a declared hostile intent.

What would Adlai Stevenson do?

All Obama needs to do is say that he’ll stop all American support for Israel if they attack Iran.

It’s not within his gift to threaten. If the Congress backs Israel (and they will), he’s powerless. And toothless.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/LD811duM

  2. sunny hundal

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  3. James Stanhope

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  4. Diogo Moreira

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  5. BevR

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  6. Tom King

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  7. Liza Harding

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  8. DO *NOT* Occupy Iran

    RT @sunny_hundal Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/hhTpOvz9 I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  9. Paul Abbott

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.

  10. Aleksis-Iskender

    Has Obama avoided war between Israel and Iran? http://t.co/baiqdb6C I still think a 'September surprise' likely.





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