Get PJ Media on your Apple

Belmont Club

Betting the Farm in the Middle East

November 8th, 2013 - 10:49 pm

If reports that Saudi Arabia had bought nuclear weapons from Pakistan represented their ultimate demarche against the rapproachment between Obama and Iran, then President Netanyahu’s proclamation that he would not be bound by the agreement was its Israeli counterpart. The UK Telegraph reports that “Benjamin Netanyahu set himself on a collision course with Israel’s Western allies on Friday after lashing out at an impending deal over Iran’s nuclear programme and warned that his country would not be bound by it”

“Israel is not obliged by this agreement and will do everything it needs to defend itself, to defend the security of its people”.

Strong words between allies. Stronger even than Merkel’s summons of the American ambassador over allegations the NSA had tapped her phone.  Jeffrey Goldberg’s advice to Netanyahu is not to get in over his head on the defiance thing. Don’t take the high hand. Such advice has been offered many times before; from the debt ceiling negotiations to Ted Cruz’s filibuster. Give it up, you can’t stop the president because he runs the system you are part of; you will only make a fool of yourself by trying.

The first reason is that U.S. President Barack Obama has him boxed in. Netanyahu can’t launch a unilateral strike on Iran now that the U.S. is actively negotiating with its leaders. That would just be outre. So Netanyahu is in a time-out of sorts — and therefore semi-marginalized.

The second reason is one Netanyahu, so far at least, has refused to comprehend. His unwillingness to permanently freeze settlement growth on the West Bank, to make the sort of grand gesture toward the Palestinians that would advance the peace process, has caused even those in Washington and Europe who are sympathetic to his stance on Iran to write him off as generally immovable and irrational.

Of course, the growth of settlements has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran is not seeking the capability to build a nuclear weapon in order to bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Netanyahu argues that these are two separate issues, and he’s correct. Except that, in the world of international diplomacy, they are inextricably linked.

Others may counter-argue that Netanyahu’s real mistake was to leave things too late; he kept quiet for too long.  Like the GOP — or a woman who has foolishly agreed to come into an apartment and hears the door lock shut behind her and a hidden switch turn on a suggestive sound track and dim the lights  – the time to exit politely has slipped by. So the advice to Netanyahu is understandable: play ball and hope you don’t catch the clap. Do anything, just stay stay in the system, because for its inmates there is no life outside the system; no solutions outside the institutions of the alliance, the UN, the international community.

The New York Times takes more or less the same line. “The remarks highlighted the growing gulf and heightened tensions between the United States and Israel over the nuclear talks and other issues in the Middle East.”

But they also hinted at the limited tools left for Mr. Netanyahu, who is sidelined in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, which he views as an existential threat to his country and has long made his primary focus.

As Washington and its Western allies increasingly show willingness to make some concessions to engage Iran in the negotiations, Mr. Netanyahu has few options beyond serving as the hawkish scold in hopes of applying pressure on Israel’s allies. “I don’t see any magic wand he can really produce at this moment,” said Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. “This is a very difficult and trying time for the Israeli prime minister.”

Although Mr. Netanyahu’s declaration on Friday that Israel is not “obliged” by any agreement made in Geneva raised anew the specter of an Israeli military strike on Tehran, experts here say such an attack is all but impossible to imagine while negotiations proceed — and without American support.

Goldberg is probably correct to conclude that there is no Beltway solution conceivable in the path which Netanyahu now threatens to tread. It must be a bluff because there is no way to express, in the notation of alliance and Washington politics, the sort of condition that Bibi’s argument implies. No solution any more than there is a way out of the dim light apartment short of diving out the window or swinging the handbag at the host.

Because what Netanyahu’s outburst — and the Saudi threat to buy nuclear weapons — implies is not a solution set within the system, but a threat to leave the system; to smash the alliance, to walk out; to do the the unthinkable within the consensus the Beltway universe.

Thus they don’t believe Netanyahu will do it. And maybe he won’t. Think of what he risks.

US allies and loyal citizens have always been at a disadvantage vis a vis America’s enemies in that they are implicitly bound to remain loyal to the system; to obey its rules  in a way that foes are not.  Enemies are by definition outside the system. They can propose anything,  do anything. However Netanyahu can no more say “no” to POTUS than Texas can threaten to secede from the Union. We are loyal, Iran is not.

But the problem with Obama is that he’s violated the first rule of leadership: never give an order that you know cannot be obeyed. The other two rules are well known to you.

1. Never lie to the troops.
2. Never tell a man to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself.
3. Never give an order you know won’t be obeyed.

Asking the impossible creates certain difficulties. Netanyahu may knuckle under in the end, but Obama’s negotiation strategy has been singularly feckless. He has pursued an approach toward Iran inimical to the most basic interests of his allies, relying on the ties of loyalty, friendship and respect for tradition to sell the deal when he himself has not indicated loyalty to them. And the difficulty with this approach, as any man who sponges off friends eventually learns, is that when the strategy collapses, it crashes completely.

The administration’s strategy towards Iran — secretly suspending sanctions while putting the onus on Israel to make concessions — is, whatever you may think of it a very high risk proposition. It sets up a brittle situation. If the president cannot come up with a deal the region can ultimately live with; if he simply comes up with the international version of Obamacare, or the regional version of Syria; in other words if he exhibits exactly the same competence in this that he’s exhibited all his life then the system will break.

The system will break because his made-for-television solution will fail.

Goldberg will remain correct. There will be no solution set within the Beltway system. So refusing to play ball with the president should rightly be construed as a fatal step. But he may not have foreseen that the dynamics of the situation are themselves pushing the solution outside the system. And what a danger that would be. No administration should risk, for the sake of peace, a hazard greater than the one they seek to avert. That would be like trying to put out a kitchen fire with a handy can of gasoline.

The fundamental problem with Obama’s Iranian policy, which was crafted insofar as I can tell, as a direct reaction to his Syrian blunder, is that it bets the farm on a long shot.  Iran will not stop in its march to the bomb because it has more to gain by it than it can ever lose to Obama. The problem for everyone, not just Bibi, is what to do when the dice come up Snake Eyes.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
From Netanyahu's perspective, the Jews of America have helped to weaken and possibly destroy Israel by their support of Big "O".

Of the dozens of fellow congregants at my synagogue who voted for Obama I have found only one who regrets her vote. Admittedly I have a sample of only about 50 to report from but it is very discouraging.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Americans are very close to some sort of Civil War. The Democrats have been absolutely lawless, and with the ACA, they've indiscriminately nuked just about everyone in the middle class. "Obamacare" will deny medical care to people and kill them. Something will have to "give" soon, because within 3 to 6 months, the "bill" will be realized in terms of both financial and human loss.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Chicago Way depends on the Mark, that is the victim of the shakedown who is either a taxpayer or corporation, submitting. It is all Obama knows. When America chose a Community Organizer, a combination of Confidence Artist and Extortionist, they thought for no good reason that they were electing a secular priest. They were wrong.

Obama has been shielded by the very outrageous nature of the charges against him. Secret Muslim, secret Communist, secret dysfunctional pathological personality, secret tool of foreign interests, or secret homosexual, they are bizarre to the point of insanity. Decent people refuse to associate with or listen to people who believe such things.

The assumption is that he can't be like that because someone somewhere in the system screens people like that out. The shocking secret is that there is no screen. When I was first in college and met a genuine lunatic, a real functioning paranoid schizophrenic, in the dormitory I was puzzled because I thought the University would protect me from such people. Then I realized that was not true. The farmer is not keeping the foxes out of the chicken coop. The foxes have gotten into the farming business.

There is a power in "No." Every two year old knows that power. How can Bibi say "No?" Can he cut a deal with Abdullah of Jordan? Can he position a submarine to choke off Iran? Can he engineer a coup in Turkey?

Obama has advanced by being outrageous. Iran has advanced by being outrageous The results can be outrageous. For Israel and Russia and China and everyone else it is time to reach into the drawer for the file labeled "Bad Movie Scripts" and consider ideas normally not considered. No one knows how this will end.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (126)
All Comments   (126)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I was channel surfing late last night, after reading this post and comments in there entirety. I caught the last 5 min of Exodus, then a portion of an interview with the Captain of the real Exodus. My mind flashed to that scene, early in Red Storm Rising, when the hero )was it Toland?) and his Marine intel buddy are watching the digitalized remake of some Russian folk movie (the name escapes me) and analyze how the changes though subtle, are direct appeals to arouse martial ardor in the audience. Sort of like Exodus. Frisson doesn't describe my reaction. I've enjoyed the dialogue between Wretchard, OldsaltUSN and the commentary by Subatai Bahadur. I lack the background to assess their conclusions professionally, but they seem plausible enough. Where the predictions may break down is based on culture. It's entirely possible that Israel would see the immense casualties a pre-emptive nuke strike would cause as too high a price to pay. The effect of guilt as part of the Jewish psyche can not be overestimated.

Exodus reminded me of how much the actual founding of Israel was an act of desperation by people who had already been pushed beyond effectively sane limits in order to survive. I don't mean Herzl and the early Zionists, who deserve all the credit they receive for establishing the foundation, but those who settled in the 30s and 40s. Between the the immigration bans in the 30s, and the holocaust itself, the early Israelis knew in their bones that no one nation nor people, nor even necessarily other Jews could be trusted, whatever noise to the contrary they made. I don't know how much of this attitude survives in Israel today. I believe this also partially explains American Jews who hate Israel (i.e., vote Democrat). It is difficult, if not impossible for Americans to understand that kind of desperation and 'dark' understanding of human nature. We haven't been invaded or subjugated in any meaningful sense since 1812. How much harder would it have to be for someone who not only lacks the intellectual understanding that the issue is real and to try to understand it you must try to imagine the emotional context in which such decisionmaking is taking place, but is also being told explicitly not to think about it, that it's a figment of the dark imagination; a psychological defense mechanism of the evil Israeli (and American) Right. Basically, Leftwing American Jews are programmed to think that sane self defense planning by the Israelis is tantamount to racism, and to entertain the possibility that some of of it is correct is to collaborate with the enemy. Meh.

Happy Birthday to any fellow Jarheads out there!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
For Israel, this is no time to be timid nor reckless. But it is a time to be decisive and aggressive. Israel has an existential problem with Iran. She also has a second order existential problem with Obama and some European powers. She is a thorn in their side. Obama would not mind Israel ceasing to exist. He just wants someone else to do it.

So, how can Bibi make this disaster into an opportunity? It seems to me that he and the Saudi king have something in common. Iran is a threat to both of them. Two against Iran is better than one. The Saudis want to nuke up, fine. Saudi can provide bases for strikes and other under the table support for Israel, maybe even for subs. Never know. Put a little fear into the Mad Mullahs®.

On the US home front, Bibi needs to sic the US Congress on Obama and his little mutt Kerry. Sowing a little discord could be helpful to his cause, and us Just Plain Joes here in the US. Bring down Obama a notch. Isolate him from his base.

All fronts are fair when your very existence is at stake. Just a few ideas.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Israel and Saudi Arabia have been covert allies for at least a decade maybe longer. I believe a Saudi diplomat let it slip publicly (intentional and authorized slip?) during the Iraq War. In order to keep the jihadis/muslims in line it was officially repudiated a day later.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For Israel, this is no time to be timid nor reckless. But it is a time to be decisive and aggressive. Israel has an existential problem with Iran. She also has a second order existential problem with Obama and some European powers. […] All fronts are fair when your very existence is at stake."

Analogously, George Zimmerman had an existential problem with Trayvon Martin. After solving that in the only viable way, he had a second-order existential problem with Obama, the MSM, higher-level Florida office holders, politically-minded prosecutors, race partisan advocacies, almost ad infinitum.

Fortunately, Zimmerman had not-unusual Florida statutory self-defense law as his complete defense, ably presented by attorneys O’Mara and West, and both properly understood and courageously applied by an all-woman Florida jury. Vindictive passions were thwarted in the end.

Legal Insurrection guest blogger Andrew Branca, an attorney and published author on US Self-defense Law, covered the Zimmerman trial exhaustively in legal terms. Zimmerman and the laws of self-defense were saved.

Can Israel save herself similarly — and afterward, be allowed the right to have done so?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
We saw what happened when Obama tried to djinn up support for air strikes on Syria, there was a groundswell of resistance. Same thing will happen if they try to target Iran. If Israel wants to go it alone, fine, as long as we don't provide one thin dime, one planeload of ammunition, one destroyer, or one supporting troop. Americans are ready to wash their hands of the whole Middle-East.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
And if Obama leaves Israel on it's own to twist in the wind with it's ultimate destruction as payment, Mr. Obama's Presidency will end incredibly quickly.

By hook or by crook.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Won't happen until the 75% of Jewish Americans who continue to support the Democrat Party with money and votes grow up.

New York will have to shift to GOP column.

Don't hold your breath, condescension toward the plebes and faculty lounge snobbery trumps good sense every time.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
As much as it hurts to admit, I agree. Apparently for the majority of my coreligionists, The notion that 0 is bad for Israel is lost in the background noise. Full bore cognitive dissonance, 24/7 makes accurate target discrimination and acquisition difficult.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
MP:

If Harris County – hypothetically speaking, of course – were to secede from the USA, the USA would no longer be the world leader in offshore oil and gas development. Houston would be.

Israel is constrained from offshore drilling by very high risk. Offshore oil platforms are lucrative, but they are also very vulnerable. If I were Iran's Supreme Leader, I would be very happy to see Israel exploit its offshore oil and gas – all it takes is one man piloting one speedboat laden with explosives or one lucky hit from a missile and that offshore platform is destroyed. Until “Hezbollah” is defanged, an offshore oil platform would become a strategic liability for Israel that would tie down its navy. (For what it's worth, the Falkland Islands has a similar problem with its offshore drilling...)

Israel has a vested interest in ensuring that its enemies in the Arabian/Persian Gulf get defunded by undermining the economic significance of petroleum. Houston, on the other hand, has a vested interest in ensuring that Gulf states never run out of money because of Houston's role as the world capital of the petroleum industry. When it comes to oil and gas development, Houston's strategic interests happen to run counter to Israel's strategic interests.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Drill Baby Drill” is a popular anthem among American conservatives. It promises to allow the United States to ignore the Arabian/Persian Gulf. However, the rest of the world cannot ignore the strategic significance of the Gulf's rental income from petroleum, and Israel certainly can't ignore it because petroleum rent finances Israel's enemies.

Although Al Gore has attracted political attention for himself through his environmental millenarianism, his Chicken Little routine has strongly undermined the promise of renewable energy. Yet, petroleum continues to finance our enemies. The Baaken does nothing to change that.

Were there some cost effective way to shift the world economy toward an energy source other than oil and gas, such a shift would cause the economies of most enemies of the United States to collapse. The key is to find an energy supply that can put Gulf states out of business. The root culture of the Islamists must be destroyed, and destroying the economy that funds them is a good start.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is probably the primary reason that Obama refuses to allow the US nuclear industry to expand. (I understand he personally is not the individual whose signature is required on a permit; but almost all the significant officials who have veto power over nuclear plant permits serve at his pleasure, or serve on commissions appointed by his surrogates.) Democrats having dominated every level of government for the period from FDR's first term until the time of Newt.

Because of the "spoils system" the significance of such domination is that the Democrat Party was able *AND* exercised its prerogative vigorously, appointing loyal Democrats to offices high and low, from dogcatchers to municipal commissioners of revenue; city school superintendents to county and regional watershed commissions, courts, hospitals, university boards of regents, highway departments, games & wildlife commissions, health departments, surveying boards, zoning commissions, public works, et cetera ad infinitum.

The consistent legacy of that domination is a perpetual foot-dragging and simple refusal to cooperate with Republicans when they are temporarily incumbent. Too often, the dumbass Rs think they will win points with the opposition by NOT exercising their traditional rights in the political spoils system. They never seem to grasp that the Dems only ratchet one direction. By failing to replace Democrat appointees with their own loyalists when they could, the Republicans end up repeatedly losing ground to a swelling army of Democrat "legacy appointees" who feel no obligation whatsoever to the ideas of either compromise nor cooperation.

Those who play by the rules - so it seems - are doomed to be at a perpetual disadvantage wrt the vicious bastards who don't.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The long game is it. But to win the long war you must win the small battles along the way and clear the chessboard for the ultimate conflict. To the Saudis and Israelis one of their prime enemies is Obama. What can be done to neutralize him?

Domestically he is on the defensive. The Democrats own Obamacare and more and more of them are terrified of how this may ruin their political careers. And now what are they to think might happen if the Republicans craft a bill that would put sanctions against Iran into law? If they vote in accordance with the wishes of their Dear Leader and Iran publicly gets the bomb their careers may be over. Their only hope of political survival may be to repudiate the LightBringer in terms of foreign affairs.

Why would the Saudis openly talk about acquiring nuclear weapons? It could just as easily be done underneath the table so that the leadership of all the players would know about it. And the public Israeli response of rebellion against the charade presided over by Kerry the Clown?

I suspect its all a game. And the objective is to nullify Obama as an active piece on the chessboard. We might not have three years to wait but in the interim it is far better to have Obama doing nothing than it is to have him doing anything at all.

Just my 2 cents.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Why would the Saudis openly talk about acquiring nuclear weapons? It could just as easily be done underneath the table so that the leadership of all the players would know about it. And the public Israeli response of rebellion against the charade presided over by Kerry the Clown? "

Perhaps because, contrary to the pronouncements of the Left, most of the world wants America to lead. Despite the loud complaints nearly everyone has prospered under the Pax Americana, the Saudis most especially. No one has been better to the Muslim world, no power has saved Muslims so often as America.

There may be a word for the bellyaching equivalent of taqqiya, something which expresses the need to complain loudly even when you are having a good time. "Death to America" may in some in deep psychological sense actually mean, "Ho boy, hallelujah". Say one thing, mean another.

And now people are terrified the hegemon is going away. So they are threatening to defend themselves, buy their own nukes, paddle their own canoe, like someone threatening to leave home with no place else to go. Unfortunately the America they remember -- the hateful America of Truman, Ike and Reagan -- is no more. Alas, the liberals took them at their world and gave them Obama.

"No ... no ... we didn't really mean ... what we meant to say was ... couldn't you ... can we start over again?" No maybe not. Maybe it's too late for do-overs.

44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The great question is what will be the resulting dynamics that emerge from the death of the hegemon. When the current top of the international food chain becomes suddenly extinct, what happens then? What will the new equilibrium bring?

We shall see. I doubt it will be pretty.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Everything depends on where the Dolphins are, Israel will use nuke’s, conventional will not work and would be too great a burden to even try using conventional resources, that’s why Israel hasn’t done anything yet, Israel will go big, I would bet they wait till it’s closer to or after the 2014 elections (unless there is a major event before hand), Israel will want to read the American tea leafs before throwing spades at the problem. The World is just starting to boil… we are at the Event Horizon, the vortex is just gett’n started and we ain’t seen nothing yet (pass the soon to be illegal popcorn).
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think Iran will admit to having a bomb until they actually test one. In fact they won't be sure they will work until they test one. The N. Korean tests show that creating a nuclear warhead that does not "fizzle" is no walk in the park. And the test will give Israel the "cause" to attack. Since Israel maintains one sub on station in the Indian ocean at all times, and can deploy more than one there when they need to...well.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
By the time they make Capt., most officers come to understand that there are some things they must not see. If they do see them, they MUST ACT, and decisively, or they lose the only real tool they possess; the faith of the men who follow them.

Non-coms throughout history have made sure their officers knew where those things they must not see are hidden, and earned their trust that they would be dealt with, under the radar.
The most effective officer/nco teams have learned to dance this waltz well enough to keep an imperfect machine running, with never a word spoken; a look, nod, shrug of the shoulders is sufficient for two professionals pursuing the same goal with equal dedication.
But, there are those that think all knowledge is recorded, catalogued and footnoted. One has only to read the book, memorize the footnotes to become a master warrior, strategist.
If there is time, and a country at war is lucky, these fools are killed off early on and better men come up from the ranks to replace them. By the time Grant had been found by Lincoln, most of the fools had been killed or flushed out both North and South; a few remained, but most were gone, ground out by three years of slaughter.
There was time and a well trained and experienced pool to draw from.
Now, we have no Lincoln, and there is no time to find one.
There is no time now.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two thoughts.
(1) What does Valerie Jarrett want? Isn't that more instructive than what Obama wants? She was born in Iran, but don't know much about her feelings toward the country or its leaders.
(2) I think any Israeli use of nuclear weapons would be utterly unforgivable in the West. I was at a program the other night about the asteroid threat. The easiest way to deflect one headed for the Earth would be to place a nuclear bomb on it. The speaker noted that when he talks to people, a significant number are so against nuclear weapons that they say they would opt to be obliterated by an asteroid rather than be saved if nuclear weapons were required. (Note: I live in then belly of the beast in Silicon Valley.)
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
If only there were some way they could get their wish to be obliterated by an asteroid while the rest of us are saved by nuking it.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's an interesting little news item:

"Ham operators in the Military Auxiliary Radio System concluded an unprecedented 48-hour marathon exercise Tuesday that linked the continental United States, Hawaii, Japan, Europe and Canada during a simulated breakdown of normal communication systems including the Internet."

Not everyone has his head in the sand.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
RWE3 - is this the exercise for a possible EMP? It's been in the works for months. I wondered how that went.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia might back Israel just to jam a thumb into Obama's eye. That would be interesting.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 4 5 Next View All