The difference between American and Israeli red line, of course, is that the latter may actually take seriously the breaching of theirs. Presumably, that would be because the government of Israel has drawn them so as to define existential threats to the state, not simply as a matter of rhetorical posturing intended mostly for domestic political consumption.
By contrast, we know that at least some Obama administration officials are persuaded the United States can live with a nuclear Iran. They are said to be working up plans to contain, or at least, accommodate themselves to such a prospect.
It is less clear whether Team Obama actually thinks it can tolerate the mullahs’ closure of the Strait. After all, the oil and natural gas that flows through it from much of the Gulf’s littoral states would be severely affected. The effect would be dire for energy prices, U.S. allies and the world economy.
So far, though, in what may be seen from Tehran – whether rightly or wrongly – as submission to the new, Iranian-dictated order of things, we have chosen to remove all carrier battle groups from the Gulf. We have also yet to challenge Iranian assertions that our capital ships will be attacked if they try to return without Tehran’s permission.
Worse yet, even if President Obama actually wanted to enforce his administration’s red lines, he has further compromised America’s ability to do so with his wholesale abandonment of Iraq, draconian defense budget cuts and the emasculated national security strategy he claims is all we can afford.
Thus, the Israelis could reasonably view the United States as less-than-serious about the threats posed by Iran and as wholly unreliable when it comes to keepingthem from metastasizing further. Under such circumstances, if the Jewish State feels it has no choice but to be deadly serious with respect to its red-lines, its leaders must be expected to act as Iran violates them.
The likelihood for such action can only have grown as a result of the contempt with which President Obama has treated Israel, our most important regional ally. Dissing its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one thing. Allowing our own red-lines to be flouted with impunity, signals that Israel is on its own and must proceed accordingly.
If we are going to stop the nightmare of a messianic regime armed with nuclearmissiles, somebody better do it soon – and with something more effective than sanctions. America should take the lead. But, if the Obama administration won’t, it should get out of the Israelis’ way.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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