Israel's Choices and America's Failure
The bad news is that everything the Obama administration has undertaken in the region has failed; the good news is that it doesn't matter much because there is no global adversary to turn American policy failures into strategic setbacks:
1) Western efforts to form an alternative government to the atrocious regime of Basher al-Assad continue to flounder. The Syrian opposition can't even elect a government in exile, despite extensive American prodding, much less control an insurgency dominated by radical jihadis. Syria's minorities, including Christians, Druze, and Kurds, still cling to the Assad regime for fear the Sunni jihadists would be even worse. As the New York Times put it delicately this morning:
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the main exile opposition group, gathered on Saturday to try to mold a transitional government. While the organization has won broad recognition among its foreign backers as Syria’s sole legitimate representative, it has not yet solidified support among rebels fighting on the ground or begun planning for a post-Assad future. The Western and Arab nations that pressured Mr. Assad’s adversaries into a reorganization last year had urged the coalition to select a prime minister, but no candidate has won a consensus."
2) The Libyan war has left America with a dead ambassador and a myriad of jihadists fanning out through the Sahel with the pick of Col. Qaddafi's arsenal. Instead of a repulsive but cautious regime in Libya, America and its allies have a metastasized strain of violent jihadism attacking the Sahel and potentially West Africa.
3) Washington's decision to back the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo is becoming a major embarrassment. Cairo should be voted "least likely to succeed" in the yearbook of world governments. President Mohamed Morsi is exposed not only as a Jew-hater (which surprised no-one) but as a creature of the Dark Ages, spouting paranoid lunacy about the Jews; like the old joke about the definition of an anti-Semite, he hates the Jews more than is absolutely necessary to stay in Arab politics. Egypt's economic situation, meanwhile, continues to sink. According to Reuters, Egypt bought only half the oil it requires for the first quarter because it didn't have enough cash--and that's after more than 10% of its power plants were idled in December for lack of fuel. The devaluation of its currency (by 10% in the past month) will raise the price of necessities for an already desperate population. The IMF is offering Egypt $4.8 billion on condition that it cut the government deficit in half by next summer, which means drastic cuts in subsidies. Given that about half of Egyptians live on less then $2 a day and survive on subsidies, that's a tough one.
With Syria and Egypt in chaos, the notion that the Palestinians will become a partner for peace at any time in the foreseeable future is whimsical. I have not met a single Israeli in a responsible position in the government or private sector who bought into the grand delusion of an "Arab Spring." On the contrary, the whole of Israeli opinion has watched with frustration as Americans of both parties pursued the bubble of Arab democracy.
On the other hand:
1) America's closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, would be delighted if Israel were to bomb Iran, as we know from the Wikileaks cables and other sources.
2) Turkey would huff and puff about Zionist aggression, to be sure, but Ankara would be relieved if it did not have to worry about a nuclear neighbor.
3) Russia would be pleased, although it wouldn't say so in public. The chess players in the Kremlin don't like a nuclear fianchetto on their southern flank.
4) Germany would denounce a unilateral Israel action, but there would be no change in German-Israeli relations.
Minus nuclear weapons, Iran's ability to inflict damage on the United States is quite limited (it might inflict considerable damage on Israel directly or through its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, however). Iran cannot close the Straits of Hormuz, at least not for very long. Its retaliatory capacity will be limited to a few acts of terrorism. If Israel can indeed neutralize Iran's nuclear capacity for a significant period of time, it will be doing America and its allies an enormous favor.