Opinion Brief

Obama's Israel summit: Did it reduce the risk of war with Iran?

Israel is eager to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities — and Obama seems equally eager to talk the Israeli prime minister out of it

At a White House summit Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama urged Israel to refrain from attacking Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, saying Israel should first give tough new sanctions a chance to weaken the Iranian regime. "There is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue," Obama said. Of course, Bibi and Obama don't quite see eye to eye on the issue. Netanyahu told America's powerful Israel lobby later that day that "we waited for diplomacy to work; we've waited for sanctions to work; none of us can afford to wait much longer." Obama has been insisting for days that military action against Iran would be premature. Can he convince Israel?

Yes... at least for the time being: Obama made it clear that military force is a "last option," and that a strike against Iran could have potentially disastrous consequences, say Lesley Clark and Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers. Netanyahu disagrees with America's assessment of the Iranian threat, and despite his public bluster, he still "indicated that he is prepared to give some more time to Obama to pursue tighter sanctions and a diplomatic deal." Obama managed to forestall an Israeli strike on Iran — for now.
"Netanyahu appears willing to give Obama more time on Iran"

Sadly, war with Iran seems inevitable: Obama has been over the top this week in espousing his support for Israel, and his rhetoric "could easily be considered a green light for Israeli action," says Dana Milbank at The Washington Post. Caving to Israeli demands, Obama disavowed a less aggressive "containment" policy toward Iran, and made a bright-line assertion that the U.S. will use military force, if it must, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It's "beginning to feel a lot like 2003," when George W. Bush was calling for the invasion of Iraq. War with Iran now has the "feeling of inevitability." 
"AIPAC beats the drums of war"

Regardless, Obama obviously takes Iran's threat seriously: "It's not just about Israel," says The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. Many Obama critics assume the president "does not see a nuclear-capable Iran as a cardinal threat to U.S. interests," but that couldn't be further from the truth. Obama knows as well as Netanyahu that allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon would have a huge impact on global security. There "might be 'daylight' between Israel and the U.S. on the timing of an attack." But both agree "that all means — including military intervention — should be used to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear."
"Obama and Iran"

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