Friday, July 10, 2009

obama and iran

With the repression in Iran at least temporarily successful and Russia effectively blocking meaningful sanctions the military option is returning slowly but surely to the table. At this point no one seriously believes that sanctions will work or that the Iranian Government, which is using alleged foreign interference as a justification for its internal crackdown, has any serious interest in negotiations. The real problem is that no one is quite sure which is worse: an attack that may or may not succeed or a nuclear Iran which may or may not fatally destabilize the Middle East. The difference in perspectives between the United States (which can afford to take some chances on this score) and Israel (which can't) is also significant here. My bet is still that Israel will take some kind of action, but it isn't clear when or how: as one wag put it, Iran has been five years from the bomb for twenty years now, and it's unclear when the game is actually up.

One interesting theory is that Iran may actually want Israel or the US (and preferably both) to attack it, as the only way to salvage a discredited regime. Thus, it could be argued, Obama is actually being rather shrewd keeping them guessing. In this respect, the alleged "misstatement" by Vice President Biden, who suggested the US might not hold Israel back only to be corrected later by Obama, may have been part of a deliberate misinformation campaign. (The mistake, if it was such, came in a taped interview, and presumably could have been corrected before the show was broadcast.) Time will tell; but time, from the Israeli perspective, is running out.


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