On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leveled some of his most stinging criticism to date at an Obama administration that refuses to issue concrete ultimatums to Iran regarding that nation's pursuit of nuclear weapons. "Those who refuse to draw red line to Iran don't have the moral right to put a red line to Israel," said Netanyahu during a press conference in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister's comments were an apparent reaction to a statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an interview with Bloomberg Radio on Sunday. When asked if the administration would specify consequences for Iran's refusal to quit its uranium enrichment program, Clinton refused to do so. "We're not setting deadlines," she responded.
The statement was an apparent response to a prior call by Netanyahu on Sunday for the administration to declare "red lines" regarding Tehran's nuclear ambitions -- the absence of which daily emboldens the Iranian government, as the regime will not take U.S. threats of military action seriously without them. "The sooner we establish (red lines), the greater the chances that there won't be a need for other types of action," the Israeli PM told Canada's CBC News.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu's tone was more urgent. "The world is telling Israel to wait on Iran because there is time and I ask, 'Wait for what? Wait for when?'" Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid quoted Mr. Netanyahu as saying, tweeting some of the Prime Minister's comments. "Clearly, diplomacy and sanctions didn't work. Every day that passes brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb and that's a fact." Netanyahu continued elaborating. "Now if Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, toward obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs."
Netanyahu said the United States and Israel have been in talks regarding what constitutes a definable threshold of tolerance that would engender a military response were Iran to cross it. Yet Obama administration officials are apparently content to maintain their current delusional strategy -- a combination of offered settlements, endless fruitless negotiations, coupled with an array of sanctions. "It's a very challenging effort to get (Iran) to move in a way that complies with their international obligations," Clinton said on Sunday. "But we believe that is still by far the best approach to take at this time."
Such an approach strains credulity. The so-called "P5+1," as in the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- America, Britain, France, China, Russia plus Germany -- have engaged in three rounds of diplomatic talks with Tehran since April. Those talks, coupled with U.S. and EU sanctions on energy, trade, banking and shipping, have done absolutely nothing to dissuade Iran's pursuit of nukes.
And why should they? Last December, in a 100-0 vote the Senate approved the most stringent sanctions against Iran to date. The measure established concrete prohibitions for any financial institutions that continued to do business with the Iranians, along with harsh penalties. Humanitarian aid was exempted and the president was granted the opportunity to implement national security waivers, classified or unclassified, every 120 days. Despite the unanimous vote on the resolution, the administration did what has become their increasingly common modus operandi with respect to congressional input: they ignored it.
It's been downhill ever since. The Treasury Department has issued thousands of waivers for companies doing business with Iran, while China and India have been allowed to continue importing oil from the regime. Language aimed cracking down on financial transactions was made less specific. And Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) led an effort to water down sanctions against insurance companies that underwrite Iranian affiliates.
Such calculated fecklessness has consequences. A report released August 31 by the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that Iran has doubled the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it has in an underground bunker at its Fordo site from 1,064 in May to 2,140 today. Moreover, Fordo is buried deep enough under the ground that it may be able to withstand a direct hit. At the Parchin complex, another site the IAEA wished to inspect, "extensive activity" had taken place, including earth removal and building demolitions. "Significant ground scraping and landscaping have been undertaken over an extensive area at and around the location," the report said. It also noted that Iran had produced nearly 418 pounds of higher-grade enriched uranium, up from 320 pounds in May. Further enrichment of Iran's total of 7.6 tons of uranium would allow Iran to produce five nuclear bombs.
Couple this reality with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest outburst in August, calling Israel a "cancerous tumor" along with his vision of a "new Middle East" where there will be "no trace of the American presence and the Zionists" and Netanyahu's concerns are well-founded. Herbert E. Meyer, special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence and vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council during the Reagan administration illuminated those concerns in a column for the American Thinker. He notes the two great lessons of the 20th century. "The first great lesson is that crazy people sometimes get political power," he writes. "The second great lesson is that when crazy people with political power tell you what they're going to do -- believe them. They're not kidding." He further asserts that "Iran's leaders, like the Nazis before them, are a bunch of genocidal lunatics," and that "(t)he Jewish people won't make the same mistake a second time. They won't wait patiently for Iran to get its hands on a nuclear bomb and then annihilate another six million of them."
The Obama administration's level of seriousness? On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney, responding to a question about a U.S. red line, contended, "It is not fruitful as part of this process to engage in that kind of specificity." The Los Angeles Times carried water for the administration as well, framing Netanyahu's demand as a way to "back down gracefully" from his recent threats to attack.
Netanyahu's statement on Tuesday disabused them of that notion. So did a Monday radio interview of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI). Rogers said he attended a meeting last month in Israel during which Netanyahu blew up at US ambassador Dan Shapiro regarding the Obama administration's foot-dragging. (Shapiro denied it). "It was very, very clear that the Israelis had lost their patience with the administration," Rogers told a Detroit radio station. "We've had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and other things, in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I've seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue, where there was a very sharp exchange." He went on. "Right now, the Israelis don't believe that this administration is serious when they say all options are on the table and more importantly, neither do the Iranians. That's why (their nuclear) program is progressing."
What is also "progressing" is president Obama's disdain for the Israeli Prime Minister. Although Netanyahu will be in the United States for the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York later this month, Barack Obama will not meet with him. The White House cited scheduling problems as the reason, despite Netanyahu's offer to travel to Washington and the fact that a meeting was requested more than a week ago, and declined "in the last few days," according to the Israeli official. On the other hand, some heads of state do fit into Obama's schedule: the president will be meeting with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi on September 23rd when he also comes to the United States.
Thus, the status quo of toothless sanctions and Iran's inexorable march towards a nuclear weapon remains unaltered. On the other hand, Israel's relationship with the United States appears to be growing more tenuous every day. It is a tenuousness that, despite all the obfuscation offered up by Democratic apologists, including Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, was well-received by a substantial portion of Democratic delegates at their convention last week. The level of that animosity and the attempt by Villaraigosa to pretend it didn't exist cannot be easily dismissed. Nor can the tragic reality of an Obama administration that clings to a Kumbaya-esque ideology, where nothing the apocalyptic regime running Iran says or does crosses a "red line."
"There should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel's back," said Barack Obama back in March. No doubt Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to gamble his nation's entire existence on such a statement. One suspects he is not that naive.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.