First came the shouting match between Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador. Then Martin Dempsey told an audience in London that he didn’t want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran. The upcoming joint military exercise between the U.S. and Israel was then scaled back, and this murky report about the U.S. contacting Iran to distance itself from an Israeli strike appeared. Then came the floor fiasco at the Democratic convention over the platform’s Jerusalem language. Now this.
Question for foreign-policy wonks: When was the last time relations between the U.S. and Israel were this poor?
The White House has rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet President Barack Obama in the United States this month, an Israeli official said on Tuesday, after a row erupted between the allies over Iran’s nuclear programme.
An Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu’s aides had asked for a meeting when he visits the United Nations this month, and “the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president’s schedule will not permit that“.
The One’s entirely booked up later this month with fundraisers, moronic pandering to morning-show DJs, and whatever it is he does when he’s skipping his daily intelligence briefings. Besides, it’s not like he and Netanyahu have anything important to discuss, do they?
Breaking hard today from the AP:
The U.N. atomic agency has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon, diplomats tell The Associated Press.
They say the intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years…
The IAEA first outlined suspicions in November that Iran was working on calculating the yield of a nuclear weapon, as part of a 13-page summary of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons work that it said was based on more than 1,000 pages of research and intelligence from more than 10 member nations.
A week ago, it looked like Obama was considering proposing concrete “red lines” for Iranian nuclear activity beyond which the U.S. would act. That was going to be the White House’s way of backing Netanyahu off and buying more time for the umpteen-thousandth round of sanctions to work. As of yesterday, though, the “red lines” idea is out; Hillary told an interviewer that the west should stay the course with negotiations right now, not throw any ultimatums at Iran. As you’ll see below, Netanyahu isn’t happy about that; Haaretz calls his remarks today “an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government over its stance on the Iranian nuclear program.” (Sorry for the subtitles; this was the only clip I could find.) It strikes me as very uncharacteristic of Obama, whose top priority is always his own reelection, to deny Bibi a courtesy visit with an election just six weeks away, unless maybe O’s suddenly convinced that Israel really is going to attack in October. In that case, Obama’s calculus might shift: His top priority would be to prevent the U.S. from getting dragged into a war with Iran, which might involve attacks on U.S. bases in the region, skyrocketing oil prices, and lord knows what else. The political consequences of something that volatile would be hard to predict, so here he is signaling to the world that if Israel makes a move, they’re making it on their own. I’m … not too sure that’s going to convince the Iranians, but it might get enough attention among Israelis to turn up the domestic pressure on Netanyahu not to attack alone. They’re O’s real target audience here, I think. Surely he’s doing himself no favors electorally at home with a snub this prominent so late in the game.
Exit question: Which campaign events will Romney be canceling so that he can schedule a hastily arranged gladhanding session with Bibi at the UN?