International

Is Obama bluffing on Iran or calling the Israeli bluff?

How pitifully vulnerable a US President can be-especially one in an election year as this one-vis-à-vis Israel and its powerful supporters in US is well manifested in President Obama’s desperate bid to stay on the right side of these forces in his current bid to get elected once again.

With their drums of war beating with strident jingoism and war-mongering by the day, the Israelis feel they have Obama by his tail on Iran. No US president in living memory has dared to take on Israel and/or its high-flying and well-heeled partisans in and outside of US Congress on any issue, especially one related to Israel’s inexorable expansionism and dream of becoming lord of ME.

Obama is certainly no exception to the rule. He may, in fact, be least capable of resisting the combined pressure of Israel and its aggressive lobbyists for a variety of reasons. His adversaries and detractors have never let him off the hook to make absolutely certain that he wouldn’t stray off the course charted, or predetermined, for him. He hasn’t disappointed them, or given them room to doubt his absolute commitment to Israel and its over-arching interests, even at the expense of US relations with the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Obama has had an early lesson in how limited his wiggle-room is in regard to what Israel and its American mentors and partisans regard as its ‘core’ interests.

Two years ago, for instance, he had dared to challenge Israel on its continued policy of expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory of Palestine by calling for a halt to settlement expansion. He had further angered the Zionists by calling on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians on their right to statehood and return to the pre-1967 borders between the two. The Zionists mounted such a swift backlash against Obama’s temerity that the puffed-up leader of the western world had to beat a hasty retreat within 24 hours and qualify his pre-1967 call in favour of Israel’s core interest of ‘secure’ frontiers. Not to mention, of course, that Netanyahu, the quintessential expansionist and war-monger, has flouted Obama’s call for a halt to settlement expansion with contempt. Poor Obama has dared not reopen the issue.

Not that Obama doesn’t have other concerns and headaches, besides the number one Israeli demand on him to fall in line behind its craving to unleash terror on Iran on the excuse that the Islamic Republic is pursuing its nuclear ‘ambitions’ and must be halted before reaching the point-of-no-return. He’s badly stranded in Afghanistan where a decade-old US and NATO military presence hasn’t much dented the Taliban influence over the country and its people. Obama is keen, if not desperate, to get out of the Afghan imbroglio with some face-saving. How keen is Obama to get over the Afghanistan conundrum is quite implicit in the latest American manoeuvre to hold direct talks with the much-hated and maligned Taliban, face to face, in Qatar.

So with his primary priority focused on Afghanistan, Obama would no doubt prefer to keep his Israeli friends and allies from forcing him to make a difficult choice on Iran, now or in the immediate future.

Not that Obama has a soft corner on Iran-or for any Arab or Islamic country, for that matter. With the Zionists and ultra-conservatives keeping him on a tight leash by never relenting on their snide propaganda against him that he’s a ‘closet-Muslim’ or at the very least a Muslim-partisan, Obama has strived hard to ward off their pressure by turning his guns on Muslim causes and concerns with unabashed severity. The way he has surrendered his early initiative on the rights of the Israeli-oppressed Palestinians stands out as sterling evidence on his part to not displease the Israelis and their backers in US.

Obama has, therefore, been extra-careful to not ruffle the Israeli and Zionist feathers on Iran.

However, because of US entanglement in Afghanistan, Obama’s seems to give first priority to means other than the use of force to force Iran to bend and give in to the relentless Israeli and combined western blackmail of its alleged nuclear ambitions. US, on Obama’s watch, have been raising the ante of sanctions against Iran. The latest squeeze mounted by Washington and its obliging European allies virtually puts a gag on Iran’s vital oil exports, in addition to dealing with the Iranian Central Bank impossible for the outside world.

The obvious thrust of the US-led arm-twisting and blackmailing of Iran is to force Iran into submission to the Israeli and western diktat, something that Iran has so far resisted without showing any cracks in its national resolve to not give in to intimidation and blackmail. The heavy turnout of the Iranian people at the early March parliamentary elections, at the call of their supreme leader, was evidence that in these testing times the Iranian people wanted to rally behind their leadership and elect people with pride in their nation’s march to progress to the parliament.

Obama, on his part, seems focused on making sure that his Zionist nemeses don’t get the better of him this time around on the Israeli agenda against Iran. The leader of the western world’s desire to stay one step ahead of his detractors and critics is goading him on a course where the room for error is reduced to absolute minimum.

With a keen eye on his re-election bid-for which the backing and support of the pro-Israeli lobby is more than necessary-Obama has been making the right noises to please his Zionist interlocutors; his most ardent desire seems riveted on not giving them any opportunity to pick on him. And yet he appears equally devoted to his desire to not have two conflicts, Afghanistan and Iran, piled on his plate at one and the same time.

The powerful America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was to commence its annual jamboree in Washington from March 4; no American politico of any consequence wishes to be left out from showing their face at this gathering, a ritual that ensures them both patronage and votes. Obama in this election year had to have this conclave on top of his engagements.

But Obama’s foreign policy concerns dictated another effort on his part to calibrate his policy options on Iran and share them with the world.

On Friday, March 2, just two days before the AIPAC session, the Atlantic Monthly a respectable journal of international affairs, came out with an Obama interview in which he dilated at length on his views and policies on Syria and Iran.

While insisting on the need to give diplomacy-backed-by-sanctions still a chance to force Iran into compliance with US and Israeli demands and open its nuclear programme to strict international inspection, Obama waxed eloquent that as “President of US I don’t bluff.” He was alluding to his determination to not write off any other options in regard to the policy objective to force Iran into submission, including, in particular, the use of force. This was another reiteration of the oft-sounded Obama punch-line that he wasn’t inclined to take any option ‘off the table’ in relation to Iran.

Two days after his Atlantic Monthly interview had made global headlines and invited thread-bare analyses from pundits all over the world, Obama addressed the AIPAC conclave where he publicly aired his preference for giving diplomacy and sanctions one last chance to brow-beat Iran but coupled his soft-approach with an equally resolute determination to keep his gun powder ready to blast Iran on the battle-field as a measure of last resort.

However, Obama seemed acting like a trapeze artist doing a double somersault, in smug confidence of a safety net sprawled underneath, in his AIPAC address on March 4.

With Netanyahu’s histrionic rhetoric about Iran’s putative deadly nuclear ambition clearly on his mind, Obama lashed out at those indulging in “Loose talk on war.” This was brave on his part, given the shrill voices being raised with impunity from many an Israeli and Zionist pulpits to nip the ‘evil’ of Iran’s nuclear programme in the bud before the flames of an Iranian bomb licked Israel.

But Obama would be naïve if he didn’t cater to the aggressive and warlike instincts of the Israeli partisans and apologists to their entire satisfaction.

So, feeding their frenzy for war and terror to the hilt as partisans of Israel in fear of a nuclear Iran, Obama waxed eloquent, as usual when it comes to the rights of Israel. He said: “No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.”

This was an unabashed Obama uttering every sound byte to please the Zionists and their partisans to the utmost of their desire to give Iran a bloodied nose and cater to the hilt all their fanciful imaginations to make Israel a feared nation by all its neighbours.

But Obama didn’t stop there. He went way ahead-beyond all reasonable pandering to Israeli penchant to sow terror and fear in the hearts of its critics and opponents. Expanding on the theme of Israel’s ‘right of self-defence’ Obama virtually handed over to Netanyahu a carte blanche to take as many swipes against Iran as possible by fully endorsing “Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.”

So that’s the latest Obama Doctrine: Israel has the right to define its own threat perception and then decide on the measure needed to defend itself against its perceived enemy. In other words, Israel will be its own judge and jury, as well as executioner to meet out whatever punishment it deems appropriate and necessary to its enemy, and no one in the world will have any right to question Israel’s wisdom or freedom of action.

Obama, a Nobel Peace Laureate, has gone back to the law of the jungle where the powerful defines what needs to be done to its enemy and then acts with impunity-with no fear of accountability-against its quarry to settle the issue according to its own higher wisdom and judgment.

What could be more welcome to the Israelis who have, in any case, been acting as their own judge, jury and executioner in ever thing related to their hapless quarries-the Palestinians-in the Occupied Territory. Obama was given a taste of the Israeli freedom to act without accountability when he tried to limit their option to expand their settlements at the expense of the Palestinians. Obama had earlier been given his first lesson in the rules of engagement with the Israelis when, on the heels of his electoral victory in 2008, the Israelis unleashed unprovoked terror against the Palestinians of Gaza and slaughtered them in thousands to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood. Now it should be the Iranians to fulfill the Zionist bloodlust. And Obam is fully on board with their plans.

No wonder that Netanyahu welcomed the license given to his war-mongering by Obama a day ahead of his arrival in Washington.

On a week-end visit to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, where the Tory government of PM Stephen Harper prides itself for being the most steadfast and unflinching votary of the Israelis, Netanyahu gleefully articulated his sense of glee before the news media in these words: “ I appreciate the fact that he (Obama) said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

So Obama, anxious and nervous to garner the Jewish vote for his re-election bid later in the year, has rolled out a red carpet for Netanyahu in Washington with his presidential stamp in gold on it.

Political pundits may have been scratching their heads about who was trying to call whose bluff between Obama and Netanyahu-given their past history of difference of opinion with regard to the Palestinian rights and the moribund peace process. However, Obama seems to have ended all the suspense on the matter with his partisan speech at the latest AIPAC session, ahead of whatever rhetoric may flow from Netanyahu’s mouth. On Iran, Obama and Netanyahu are at one. Obama may have said the last word to remove any lingering doubt whether he would give in to the Israeli blackmail to give Iran a bloodied nose, when he said, categorically and unequivocally: “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

So the use of force is no longer in doubt; the only remaining focus of interest for pundits is, would Obama let Netanyahu have a go alone or would it be a joint operation?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2012 on page no. 18

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