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Amateur Hour at the U.N.

The Obama administration’s Syria policy goes up in flames.

Feb 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 22 • By JOHN BOLTON
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And while the administration has been trumpeting Tehran’s increasing economic isolation, the reality is different, as the mullahs continue their three-decade-long quest to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. We now have no prospect through diplomacy or sanctions of preventing Iran from crossing the finish line essentially at a time of its choosing. In remarkably underreported Senate testimony about Iran’s nuclear program on January 31, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, stated unambiguously: “The sanctions as imposed so far have not caused them to change their behavior or their policy.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly said recently that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year. (In fact, from publicly available evidence, it could well be before that.) 

Incredibly, Panetta also said two weeks ago there was a “strong likelihood” Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear program in the fast-approaching April-June period. Why would Panetta speak so openly about Israel’s potential timing? Because the administration believes that its private pressure on Israel not to act militarily is failing, and that the only option was to go public. Who knows what sensitive information Team Obama will next reveal: Israel’s flight plans to the Iranian targets? Israel’s order of battle?

So the double veto signals to Iran that Russia and China have its back in the Security Council, foreclosing more Obama administration play-acting on nuclear proliferation. And with Panetta’s anti-Israel comments, Obama’s mask is off: He fears an Israeli strike more than Tehran’s obtaining nuclear weapons.

This year could thus be critical. Will Iran (and, as a consequence, -others in the region) get nuclear weapons, or will someone step forward to take the only possible remaining action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from happening: a preemptive military strike?

Since there is almost no chance that Obama will act, the pressure on Israel intensifies. While the spotlight last week was on the Security Council, the real action is increasingly in Israel’s “inner” national security cabinet. It is a dangerous and unpleasant place for Israel to be, but in the absence of American leadership, David needs to decide on his own whether to pick up his slingshot.

John Bolton, ambassador to the United Nations during 2005-06, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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