Administration Iran Leakfest Means Obama’s Tough Stance is Just Talk (COMMENTARY MAGAZINE) Jonathan S. Tobin 03/30/12)
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Nothing annoys foreign policy establishment types more than the need
for presidents to pander to the opinions of the voters. That’s even
more true this year than most as President Obama’s desire to pose as
Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House has caused him to
take stands that not only bother veteran Foggy Bottom “realists” but
also his core supporters and staffers who apparently take a dim view
of the desire of the overwhelming majority of the American people to
support Israel and to vigorously oppose Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But
though Obama’s Jewish charm offensive may still be in full swing,
government insiders are apparently working overtime to send Israel
and the rest of the world the signal that the president’s political
commitments ought not to be taken all that seriously.
That’s the upshot of a week of heavy duty leaking on the part of
administration officials who are less than thrilled about the fact
that the president has publicly enlisted them in an effort to stop
Iran. Yesterday, there was the attempt by Washington to expose
Israel’s secret alliance with Azerbaijan and thereby ensure that it
would be broken off so as to render an attack on Iran more difficult.
Today, the New York Times has another leaked story in which anonymous
government figures state their concern the president’s public
rhetoric on Iran has boxed them into a spot that neither he nor they
want to be in.
The leaking demonstrates just how unhappy the Washington foreign and
defense policy establishment is about the way the president’s re-
election campaign has led him to commit himself to action on Iran.
Lest there be any doubt about the purpose of these disclosures, the
officials tell the Times their hope is these stories as well as the
recent leak about a Pentagon war simulation that was specifically
crafted to feed speculation about possible U.S. casualties in the
event of a conflict with Iran are designed to “provide the president
with some political cover.”
The “cover” will presumably be necessary because the administration
has no intention of ever actually going to the mat with Iran in spite
of all the tough talk that comes out of the president’s mouth when
addressing pro-Israel audiences. Some of the anonymous sources for
the Times story are worried about the tough talk taking on a life of
its own and overwhelming their proposed diplomatic plans on Iran. But
the underlying assumption of these leaks is that the real truth about
the president’s plans was revealed in his “hot mic” moment with
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when he spoke of having
more “flexibility” after his “last election,” not his speech to AIPAC.
But for all the duplicity involved in the formulation of current U.S.
policy toward Iran, the leakers have brought attention to a genuine
dilemma. The president has condemned “loose talk” about war with Iran
and has stuck to his belief that diplomacy can find a way to beguile
the Iranians to abandon their nuclear plans. But the talkative
administration officials understand all too well that the
president’s “window of diplomacy” never really existed. No matter how
much they boast of their success in creating an international
coalition to back sanctions against Iran, they know this is mere
talk. The Iranians don’t believe the Europeans will, when push comes
to shove, enforce crippling sanctions against them. And they have no
intention of backing down.
That means sooner or later, President Obama will have to choose
between actually taking action on Iran and breaking his promise to
ensure that Iran never goes nuclear. His staffers just hope that
moment comes after November when, they presume, he can safely break
his word. After all these leaks, if the Iranians didn’t already know
this to be true, they know it now.
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