New Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he will handle the Iranian nuclear weapons program if the US doesn’t stop them. Apparently, that’s one foreign test that VP Joe Biden simply won’t abide. He waggled his finger at Israel and warned them not to interfere in, uh, their own national-security crisis:
Vice President Joe Biden issued a high-level admonishment to Israel’s new government Tuesday that it would be “ill advised” to launch a military strike against Iran.
Biden said in a CNN interview that he does not believe newly installed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would take such a step. Even so, his comment underscored a gap between the conservative new Israeli government and the Obama White House on a series of questions, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran.
While the Obama administration has made a series of recent overtures to Tehran, the Israelis have grown more confrontational out of concern that the Islamic Republic’s increasing nuclear know-how could one day become an existential threat.
Netanyahu signaled several times during his election campaign that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. “I promise that if I am elected, Iran will not acquire nuclear arms,” he said in one appearance, “and this implies everything necessary to carry this out.”
The Americans didn’t want Israel taking out Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1981, either, but that turned out to be critical in ending Saddam’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. It wound up being a low-cost hygienic move that made two invasions of Iraq possible, and kept Saddam from overrunning Saudi Arabia. In that case, the Reagan administration did the finger wagging, and every successive administration benefited from it — until George W Bush deposed Saddam permanently in 2003.
The Israelis acted in 1981 because they rightly sensed that the US would not intervene to stop Osirak from going on line, which would have given Saddam nuclear fuel for the weapons he desired. Israel sensed the same thing about the Bush administration, and if they thought Bush was hesitant, imagine what they think of the new internationalists in the West Wing. Even more so than with Saddam, who dreamed of a pan-Arab state more than destroying Israel, Netanyahu and the Israelis know that Tehran will only have one destination in mind for their nuclear-tipped missiles: Tel Aviv. They have no desire to get proven correct in a missile attack that will destroy their nation, which is the not-so-secret desire of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahcracy for which he fronts.
If Biden wants to stop Israel from conducting the same kind of hygienic attack on Iran that they conducted on Iraq in 1981, then the US had better get a lot more serious about shutting down Iran’s nuclear program. We can start by exposing the December 2007 NIE as a piece of political hackery and admit that Iran has never stopped working on the bomb. Then we can stop sending “reset/overcharge” buttons to Russia and demand reciprocity on Iran as the price for backing away on missile-defense systems in eastern Europe. Perhaps the latest arrival from the medical TV series House can arrange to get this administration a spine transplant, stat.