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Obama’s Iran Failure

Israel turns up the heat.

Nov 21, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 10 • By LEE SMITH
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The notion that the Gulf Cooperation Council forces can be strengthened to balance the Iranians is at odds with the historical rationale for arms sales to Gulf Arab states. The Israelis get American weapons for use against American adversaries; the Arabs are sold U.S. munitions because it pleases them to have expensive new toys and it keeps U.S. production lines rolling. The Saudis may have convinced themselves that they rolled back the Iranians when they dispatched Gulf Cooperation Council forces to Bahrain in March, but all they managed to prove was that Arab armies and their weapons are typically turned against their own populations​—​which is why there was so much resistance recently to a $53 million arms sale to Bahrain. Indeed, with the recent parade of Bahraini dignitaries through Washington, American policymakers cannot help but be dismayed by the fact that a vital U.S. strategic interest​—​the home port of the Fifth Fleet​—​has been entrusted to a gang of incompetents.

Administration officials may well believe they can deter a nuclear Iran​—​without figuring nonstate actors (and possible delivery mechanisms) like Hezbollah into the equation. But the fact that the Obama White House decided not to pursue further sanctions against the Iranians for the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington​—​an operation that might have killed hundreds of Americans​—​signals that the administration has no credible threat of force, not even against a nonnuclear Iran.

Accordingly, Israel may well escalate its public diplomacy campaign​—​and may move beyond diplomacy if it thinks a mortal threat is being ignored. There are options short of a full-scale bombing campaign that Jerusalem might take: an aerial strike on one facility, or even a ground operation designed by a defense minister obsessed with commando raids​—​anything that might make the international community, and especially the United States, take the Iranian threat seriously. Israel may not be able to destroy the Iranian nuclear program in its entirety by itself, but it might settle for less than that in the hopes of inspiring others to finish the job.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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