In a conversation with The Washington Post's David Ignatius last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta essentially told Israel that it has no rights to self-defense and that if anyone will defend the Jewish state from future Iranian nukes it will be the United States:
President Obama and Panetta are said to have cautioned the Israelis that the United States opposes an attack, believing that it would derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the threshold. But the White House hasn’t yet decided precisely how the United States would respond if the Israelis do attack.
So, the Obama administration is sending a very clear signal to Israel that it must not preemptively strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran is getting closer and closer to fulfilling its nuclear dreams and the president of the United States seems determined to do as little as possible about it while warning the Jewish state that it must not act in its own self-defense.
Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn’t misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel’s population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel’s defense.
Why would the Obama administration emphasize that it could come to Israel's defense if Israel is attacked by Iran? One likely reason is that it seeks to rob Israel of its justification for militarily preventing such an attack. In other words, if Israel actually takes the necessary measures to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weaponry, Israel will be solely to blame for the consequences.
In any case, the very last thing that this administration will do is prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weaponry. It has the capacity to do so, but it does not have the political will and therefore will not do so.
There are few countries in this world that are comfortable with the idea of Iranian nukes. Certainly the United States and most of Europe do not want to a nuclear armed Iran and neither does most of the Middle East. Egypt and Saudi Arabia very definitely do not want to see Iranian nukes. Shamefully enough, if Israel does what Israel needs to by taking out that program, it can count on no support from those countries. On the contrary, when Israel does what so much of the world wants it to do, those very same governments will scream to the heavens about Israeli aggression.
Will the US stand with Israel under such circumstances?
It might, but as president Obama is making quite clear, it also might not.