Thomas Friedman of The New York Times does not want Israel mucking in American policy-making toward Iran, and so counsels Prime Minister Netanyahu to cancel his planned speech to the U.S. Congress. He seems to believe Iran's determined march toward nuclear weapons and genocidal rhetoric about Israel, in fact, has nothing to do with Israel, and that Israel should avoid getting in America's way. But understand that Friedman is only trying to protect Israel.
Personally, I'm still dubious that the U.S. and Iran will reach a deal that will really defuse Iran's nuclear weapons program. Such a failure would be very serious and could end up, one day, with the U.S. deciding it has to use military force to set back Iran's program. We surely don't want Iran to get a bomb that sets off a nuclear arms race in an already unstable Middle East.
But, even if we do use force, success is hardly assured and the blowback unpredictable. That is why it is absolutely not in Israel's interest to give even the slightest appearance of nudging America toward such a military decision. Israel should stay a million miles away from that decision, making clear that it is entirely a U.S. matter. Because, if we do have to strike Iran, plenty of Americans will not be happy. And if it fails, or has costly consequences for us and our military, you can be sure a lot more Americans will not be happy — and some will ask, "How did we get into this mess?" One of the first things they'll dig out will be Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
Why in the world would Israel risk putting itself in that situation?
The short answer is that it is not "entirely a U.S. matter." It is Israel's head on the block, and its Prime Minister is weighing the political fallout of irritating a President who is generally irritated with Israel vs. nuclear fallout. But isn't it sweet of Friedman to want to save Israel from the risk of the wrath of the American people -- who, in his telling, don't appear to be terribly clever.
Shoshana Bryen writes that Israel's head is on the block, and its Prime Minister is weighing the political fallout of irritating a President who is generally irritated with Israel. Above, Israeli PM Netanyahu meets President Obama at the White House, May 20, 2011. (Image source: Israel PM office)
It is highly unlikely that the Obama administration will strike Iran to preempt an Iranian strike on Israel. Can Friedman imagine how many Americans "will not be happy" if we take military action against a country that hasn't attacked us, but threatens to attack someone else -- anyone else? They will have a point.
"And if it fails…a lot more Americans will not be happy." Is he suggesting that Israel would be responsible for a U.S. military failure over Iran? Or that Americans can be made to blame Israel? Instead of calling that scenario outrageous, Friedman suggests again that Israel subordinate its national security concerns to American politics. If U.S. military action were to fail, the blame should accrue to U.S. strategy, planning and execution, not to Israel's justifiable concern that it is #1 on the "hit list." The American public is likely to understand that, even if the President and Friedman would have it be different.
Maybe this should be put in the context of Friedman's earlier opining on Israeli meddling in American affairs. Just over a year ago he wrote that the Jews have purchased the U.S. Congress, which, in his view, is too stupid or too blinded by Jewish money to carefully consider the facts of Iranian nuclear development:
Never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel's side against their own president's. I'm certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations. (11/19/2013)
Friedman was then, and remains, a stalking horse for President Obama's views.
Today, running a close second to Israel as a target for the President's vitriol is Congress -- not just Republicans, for whom he appears to have contempt -- but also for Democrats who believe sanctions on Iran are the best way to produce a change in the Iranian government's calculus. Earlier this month, the President accused sanctions-minded legislators of pushing the U.S. into war. "Congress should be aware that if this diplomatic solution fails, then the risks and likelihood that this ends up being, at some point, a military confrontation is heightened. And Congress will have to own that as well."
In late 2013, Lee Smith wrote in Tablet Magazine what was then a contemporary assessment of the administration's unhappiness with Israel, and specifically with its Prime Minister, over Iran policy. It is contemporary again.
Secretary of State John Kerry effectively called the Israelis liars... Not only has the White House defined Israeli concerns as manipulative and deceptive, but they have also gone a step further, by identifying the threat to global peace as Israel's temerity in voicing such concerns, rather than Iran's decade-long push for a bomb... another round of sanctions, administration officials say, will... set the United States on "a march to war." Further congressional pressure on the Iranians, the New York Times says, is "urged on by Netanyahu."
From the point of view of the administration and its surrogates in the press, if you believe sanctions—rather than good will—is what got Iran to the table in the first place and further sanctions are likely to produce a better deal than relieving pressure on Iran, then you're a warmonger. If you believe that sanctions should not be lifted until Iran complies with U.N. Security Council resolutions and ceases all activity on its nuclear weapons program, then you're with Netanyahu and the rest of those Israeli liars... If you're not 100 percent behind Obama, you just want to send American boys off to die for Jewish causes.
The President has acknowledged on occasion that he had no strategy for one or another occurrence in the world. But using Friedman and others to hammer home the price the President will extract from those who meddle where they aren't wanted, the outline of his Iran strategy is clear enough:
- Part I is to keep Iran at the negotiating table until he can claim to have brought the Islamic Republic back into the mainstream of international politics as a force for "stability" in the Middle East/Persian Gulf -- or until the clock runs out on his term.
- Part II is to ensure that if there is blame to be laid for any failure of Part I, it is laid at the doorstep of the Republican Congress and its ally, Israel.
Perhaps Friedman could please go protect somebody else?