Mitt Romney says that President Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus.” (Fact checkers’ alert: It is a metaphor.) Last week provided a prime example of the conduct that gives rise to this conclusion.
The Times of Israel reported on Friday:
The US should not become embroiled in an Israeli military strike on Iran that would not only fail to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but could also undo international diplomatic pressure on Tehran, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said Thursday in London.
Such an attack by Israel would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” Dempsey said, adding: ”I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”. . .
Last week, Dempsey said that Israel and the US did not see eye to eye on the Iranian nuclear threat, admitting that Washington and Jerusalem were on “different clocks” regarding Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
He noted, however, that he understood Israel’s urgency in calling for action against Iran’s nuclear program.
“They are living with an existential concern that we are not living with,” he said.
I can’t imagine what purpose, other than to spur Israel to act, this could serve. Only a red blinking light over the White House (Y ou’re on your own!) could be more clear.
There was also this report in the New York Times:
For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday offered findings validating his longstanding position that while harsh economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation may have hurt Iran, they have failed to slow Tehran’s nuclear program. If anything, the program is speeding up.
But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.
With the report that the country has already installed more than 2,100 centrifuges inside a virtually impenetrable underground laboratory, and that it has ramped up production of nuclear fuel, officials and experts here say the conclusions may force Israel to strike Iran or concede it is not prepared to act on its own
In short, additional evidence of the failure of sanctions and public displays renouncing U.S. support for a strike give comfort to the Iranians and move Israel closer to unilateral action.
Mitt Romney’s phrase is therefore apt in the context of Iran. Obama has constructed a stalling mechanism to avoid action, not a successful policy that will defang the regime.
What about Romney?
He and his advisers often point back to a speech given in 2007 at the Herzilya conference in which he called for not merely sanctions (this was five years ago, mind you) but for the United States to make credible a military option, the exact opposite of what Obama has done. In pledging to make his first foreign visit to Israel and beef up preparations for military action, he will, if nothing else, present a united front to Iran and thereby exert whatever pressure remains to force Iran to give up on its nuclear ambitions.
Romney didn’t comment on Dempsey’s remarks, but I cannot imagine he would permit senior military officials to talk down a military option or to signal openly a lack of support from the United States. I frankly couldn’t imagine any other U.S. president of either party but Obama doing so.
Would Romney actually order military action if other options were exhausted? On one level it is unknowable, as is the case with every monumental presidential decision on a matter of national security. But we do know that in word and deed the Obama administration is doing everything possible to distance itself from Israel, which come to think of it, is where this president began his term.