I’m still grieving my father’s death this week, and I haven’t received any condolences from Arab leaders.
I wasn’t expecting any, of course. Frankly, it’s my friends and colleagues, at home and around the world, who are giving me more sleepless nights lately.
I’ve been working my tuchis off the last several years trying to get the world, or at least the West, to take Iran’s nuclear pursuit seriously. Now that I’ve made progress – however much I irritated Obama and Sarkozy and the rest of them in the process – I’ve now got Israelis, of all people, screwing me.
Does Yuval Diskin, Shin Bet’s former director, think he’s helping Israel when he expresses doubt that an aerial strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would be effective? Why would he say so publicly? Doesn’t he know that will undercut our efforts to use the threat of force to convince Tehran to change course?
Does Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief, think he’s helping Israel when he echoes Diskin? What about Shlomo Gazit, the former IDF intelligence chief?
Does Ehud Olmert, my weak-kneed predecessor, think he’s doing Israel a favor when he publicly suggests that, on Iran, I’m a bit trigger-happy or that I’m dissing the international community? (And does he really think that he’s got any useful advice to offer, after that debacle of a war he ran in Lebanon?)
Look, I recognize that, if sanctions don’t work, an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites would be no walk in the park, especially if we have to do it alone. But, if Diskin and the others have something to offer, maybe they should send me a private memo rather than undercut me, and all of Israel, in public.
All this public carping helped convince me to call for early elections. If I win another term, as I certainly will, I’ll have a stronger mandate at home to do what I may have to do on Iran – whatever that eventually means.
When it comes to Iran, I’m having enough trouble keeping the West united and strong. Now that the P5+1 met with Iranian officials and will do so again later this month, the potential for Western slippage is only growing – especially with some Iranian officials calling for Western easing of sanctions as a good-will gesture to keep the talks moving forward.
In Washington the other day, Obama’s top officials said they could allow Iran to continue enriching uranium up to 5 percent purity – a huge concession – if Tehran agreed to lots of oversight and safeguards.
I don’t expect the Iranians to agree, but I worry that one concession will lead to another, then another, then another. That’s because after Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has little appetite for another military confrontation. Besides, Obama’s in a tight race for re-election, and he’d like nothing more than a deal to tout his diplomatic skills and reassure his liberal friends that he values cooperation over confrontation.
That’s why he’s still promoting diplomacy in Syria – however obvious it must be to anyone with a working brain that Kofi Annan’s got no chance to convince Bashar al-Assad to stop slaughtering his own people and that the UN’s monitors won’t be able to do anything except wade in the rising blood.
If, on the other hand, we can keep raising the pressure on Iran and engineer al-Assad’s fall, that would make life much better not just for Israel, but for the civilized world. A squeezed Iran will find it harder to finance Hezbollah, Hamas, and the rest of the terrorists on their payroll. A toppled al-Assad will leave Hezbollah without a key ally and at least raise the chance that a new Syria would be less hostile to us.
So, what’s the West doing? Offering to ease the pressure on Tehran while letting al-Assad survive his internal challenges.
I have to laugh when I recall that old line about the Palestinians: “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” These days, I wonder whether it’s the West that can’t see the opportunities before it.