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Time to Authorize Use of Force Against Iran

12:00 AM, Aug 21, 2012 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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The problem, he goes on, is that there is too little trust that the United States will act. He advises that “even statements” could help, but “not to AIPAC;” instead, “a declaration to the Congress, that if the steps the administration is relying upon today … do not achieve success by the summer of 2013, then the Americans will deal with the problem via military intervention.” Then, in addition to words,  “actions should be taken to show that you’re serious…in order to demonstrate to the world more clearly that you’re really training for this and preparing for this.”

“The American threat has to be a great deal more credible,” Yadlin advises, and he explains why: “It cannot be that the secretary of defense will stand up publicly and say that an attack on Iran will plunge the world into World War III or the Middle East will go up in flames. That shows that you really don’t mean to do it.” Yadlin wants Israel to delay a decision and wants the United States to take a tougher line. He concludes that “even if the batteries of trust are not full, a public commitment and a legal commitment, like a letter to Congress, would help a great deal toward the correct decision being taken in Israel.”

Yadlin is at bottom right. The refusal of President Obama to make a categorical statement that Iran will be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon suggests that he is keeping his options open. Mr. Obama has said, “My policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons,” adding that, “When I say all options are on the table, I mean it.” But having a “policy of prevention” is far from a pledge to prevent, and vague phrases like “I have Israel’s back” or “all options are on the table” have obviously failed to persuade Israelis or Iranians that he will use force to stop an Iranian bomb.

On the other hand, no president is going to promise in August 2012 to undertake a military strike precisely “by the summer of 2013.” In a Washington Post op-ed a few days after his Times of Israel interview, Yadlin urged that President Obama quickly visit Israel to speak to the Knesset, and simultaneously “notify the U.S. Congress in writing that he reserves the right to use military force to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability.” Yadlin’s goals are clear, but his methods won’t work in the American political and constitutional context. The idea of an Obama visit to Israel in the weeks just before, much less just after, the Democratic party convention is unrealistic; the time for Obama to do that is long past. And as for the president “notifying” Congress that he “reserves the right” to use force, that won’t work either; the president either has that right as commander in chief or he does not, and a letter saying “yeah, I do” or even stating another, starker warning to Iran won’t be persuasive—especially in the weeks leading up to the election.

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