Obama Asks AIPAC to Trust Him a Little While Longer

Barack Obama gave a speech to AIPAC this morning and once again announced that when the chips are down he has Israel’s back. “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told them to applause. “And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.” Nonetheless, Spencer Ackerman makes the case that Obama engaged in the absolute minimum level of pandering possible in his speech:

Obama made a case for Israel and AIPAC to trust him on international sanctions to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon while telling Iran not to think he won’t unholster his own guns. He did it without pretending to AIPAC that see the world the same way. Or to put it differently, Obama challenged AIPAC to see the world his way, while every other American politician who addresses this forum will say he sees the world their way. 

….He made a case against “loose talk of war,” and for his diplomatic leadership, which he accurately noted “allowed us to rally the international community as never before; to expose Iran’s intransigence; and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.”….Are we closer to avoiding an Iran war? It seems like it. The onus is on Netanyahu now to respond to Obama. One can cynically suggest that one of Netanyahu’s targets in a strike on Iran is Obama’s presidency; I would not put anything past Netanyahu. But Netanyahu has to consider — and my understanding is his advisers are indeed considering this — that Obama may very well be reelected, and then Israel will have to deal with the consequences of defying him when he returns to the height of his political power. Obama’s speech to AIPAC threw down a gauntlet to multiple audiences, while challenging them to do things his way.

This is not really my bailiwick, but if Obama’s speech really does represent the far reaches of Middle East non-militarism in the mainstream community — and I don’t have any reason to doubt Spencer’s word on that — then I’m not sure we’re especially close to avoiding war at all. Obama has indeed been much more successful with sanctions than George Bush was, and he’s certainly less bellicose than, say, John McCain. But let’s face it: it’s still unlikely that sanctions will ultimately slow down Iran’s nuclear program. In other words, Iran is probably going to call Obama’s bluff, the one he says he’s serious about, and by the time they do the public will be well and truly whipped into a war frenzy.

What happens then? According to Obama, we start the bombing runs. At the moment, then, it sounds like the main difference between Obama and Netanyahu is that Obama would like to wait until his second term to give the Pentagon its marching orders.

In the meantime, here’s a question: I’ve seen entire forests felled providing me with the inside story of what Obama and his advisors really thought and did during the economic crisis of 2009-10. But I’ve seen virtually nothing — actually, scratch that: I’ve seen nothing — providing me with an inside glimpse of what Obama really thinks about Iran and Israel. Why is that? Is the foreign policy team just a lot more tightlipped than the domestic guys?


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