Haaretz: In Iranian-Israeli brinksmanship, Obama is powerless

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Aluf Benn in this morning’s Ha’aretz describes an increasingly dangerous poker game being played out over Iran’s nuclear program. With war now being threatened, "the stakes are constantly rising with the expectations that one of the players will recognize his weakness, blink and leave the table."

Player one, the Prime Minister of Israel has certainly upped the ante since taking office.

"Netanyahu managed to convince the world that Israel is on the verge of a preemptive war to try to foil Iran’s nuclear program. His speeches on a second Holocaust and Amalek, the acceleration of military preparations, the exercises on the Home Front, the distribution of gas masks and even the stockpiling of dollars by the Bank of Israel all suggest that Israel is preparing to strike Iran, as it did when it attacked the nuclear plants in Iraq and Syria."

According to Benn, Player two – the President of Iran, Mahmoud Amadinejad – recently raised Netanyahu’s ante, "when he posed the destruction of the Zionist regime not merely as a religious-ideological ambition, but as a practical goal."

It’s not clear what the third player, President Obama, is going to bet, as he "holds the weakest hand." 

"This is so because of domestic political weakness and because he can’t seriously threaten Ahmadinejad or Netanyahu. Obama doesn’t want to attack Iran himself and will find it hard to restrain Israel at the moment of truth."

How did the tail wind up so successfully wagging the dog? For weeks the President of the United States has been "airlifting senior officials [to Israel] to ask Netanyahu to hold back." You might think the world’s last remaining superpower and leader of the "international community" would be able to keep its number one aid recipient under wraps, but that does not seem to be the case.

While Benn ignores the role that Obama advisor Dennis Ross is playing – the current scenario is awfully similar to the game plan etched by Ross in 2008 – Benn does pose some reasonable questions:

"What will happen if diplomacy and sanctions fail, as they are expected to, and Ahmadinejad continues on his nuclear path? Will Netanyahu then be able to pull back from his heated statements and announce that the Iranian threat is not so bad? Or has he already burned the bridge for a withdrawal and will have to go to war?"

It’s a pity the American media does not allow itself to ask such questions, except for a few neocons such as the Washington Post’s Anne Appelbaum, who has already demanded that Obama let Israel go to war with Iran if necessary.

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