Monday, March 19, 2012

Whether He Likes it or Not: Why Obama’s Policy Will Eventually Bring War with Iran

"A statesman has not to make history. But if ever in the events around him he hears the sweep of the  mantle of God he must jump up and catch at its hem." --Bismarck

By Barry Rubin

President Barack Obama hasn’t changed but the situation has, in part due to his actions. Obama will do everything possible to escape confrontation with Iran but events, reinforced by his own statements and of course by Iranian behavior, will one day, if he is still in office, force him in that direction. Obama is not a capable enough statesman to grab the hem of the mantle of God, but he has managed--to coin a phrase--to entangle himself helplessly into it.

As usual, Shakespeare said it best, in "Hamlet":

"For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard, and it shall go hard"

The word "petard" in Hamlet did not refer to clothing but to a landmine that blew up the sapper who laid it. In other words, a tool intended for one purpose turned against its creator despite his efforts and intentions

I've already written a satirical article to make this point and now this piece makes the same argument in a serious style.

The debate over whether Obama is Israel’s “best friend” or just faking for electoral purposes misses the point. The personality or even the intentions of the man who lives in the White House are not necessarily the main factor shaping international events.  Often, what he says and does determines outcomes in ways he never intended.

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In his AIPAC speech, Obama set forward a simple strategic approach: either Iran will stop developing nuclear weapon or an Israeli attack is justified. Whatever his intentions, that gives a green light to Israel for such an operation. The only question is the timing and it certainly won’t be this year.

Much of the discussion over the speeches of Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the AIPAC meeting has revolved around false issues:

--The claim from the pro-Obama camp that Obama heroically reined in Netanyahu and prevented an Israeli attack on Iran right now. That’s a fantasy. Among other factors, Israeli leaders always knew that they didn’t have U.S. or international  support for an attack and preparations were by no means ready.

Within Israel it is well known that Netanyahu is a great talker who makes Israel’s case most effectively. At the same time it is widely understood that he is also a man who doesn’t like action so much and certainly has never been a high risk-taker or advocate of military adventures.

The actual content of Israeli government statements has been: We are not eager for a war but we might have to attack some day unless you get tougher on Iran. That is precisely what has happened. Israel won its point, getting the world to be tougher on Iran and to move a big step toward accepting the necessity of an Israeli attack in future.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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