In a self-congatulatory, noncommital speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama defended his record with Israel while hedging on its most pressing concern: a nuclear Iran. After a few minutes of "I'm Israel's greatest champion!," he set to work speaking about Iran -- and continued to insist diplomacy would work.
He insisted that his administration had always, always acted with Israel's best interests at heart, and had done everything possible to keep our friend and ally safe. "Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, 'Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.' That belief has guided my actions as president. The fact is my administration's commitment to Israel's security has been unprecedented."
As Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner points out, however, this president has been consistently reluctant to take swift, meaningful action when it comes to Israel's security, only doing so when pushed by Congress.
The reality is that when Obama took office, he adopted a hostile stance toward Israel, trying to halt Jews from building homes in the Jerusalem area, and treating that as a bigger threat to Middle East peace then the Iran nuclear program. He sought engagement with the Iranian regime, and resisted calls to stand with democratic protesters who were demonstrating against the radical Islamic government.
Our relationship with Israel over the past four years has been marked with shameful indecision on our part, and increased tension as a result. The president has engaged in a whole lot of finger wagging towards Iran, but had to be prodded to take action, in the form of sanctions. Indeed, his speech today didn't bolster confidence that he'd do whatever is necessary to stop Iran from going nuclear.
Initially, the president seems to take a hard stance on Iran, committing us taking whatever actions necessary to stop the rogue state from obtaining nuclear weapons:
We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.
Klein points out, however, that later in his speech, he defers on any military action, and seems to underestimate just how close Iran is to building a bomb:
But on the other hand, he warned against taking action, declaring, “now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built.” The sanctions are, “slowing the Iranian nuclear program,” he said at another point in the speech. Yet just a few weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran was rapidly expanding its nuclear work.
Increased sanctions are good, and I'm hardly clamoring for war, but Obama's posturing game is weak. He has failed to make credible threats of military force that might give Iran serious pause to continuing their nuclear program. The headlines have been dominated by stories of disagreements between the US and Israel on how to approach Iran. The president has announced to the world troop drawdown dates, and drastically cut our military budget. Iran can't possibly look at what's happening here and believe we're ready and willing to launch a military offensive against them if they don't cease trying to become a nuclear power.
As the situation with Iran escalates, Obama has once again failed to take a definitive, strong stance on the issue. He's still speaking as though Iran has any interest in negotiating away its nuclear capabilities, rather than being forced, be it economically or militarily to abandon its efforts. We're not dealing with a reasonable regime here, Mr. President, and it's time we start talking like that.