Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Obama's not on our team
As 10,000 Israeli basketball fans traveled to Italy on Sunday to root for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague championship game against Real Madrid, an estimated 1,000 American troops arrived in Israel for a very different sort of gathering.
Due to the jubilation surrounding Maccabi's stunning overtime victory, with crowds cheering the players and fireworks and celebrations bursting out all over the country, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took time out to take pride in his country's national team.
For this reason, little attention has been given to the presence of the U.S. soldiers, who have come to participate in "Juniper Cobra," a five-day exercise with the IDF.
The joint training exercise is aimed at testing Israel's missile interceptors -- the Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow -- all of which were developed with the financial assistance of the United States. So far, these interceptors have been put to the test, mostly successfully, against rockets fired from Gaza.
But it is clearly the more existential threat -- directly from Iran, not via its Arab proxies -- that necessitates such an extensive exercise on the part of the "Great Satan" and the "Small Satan," both explicit targets of global jihad.
And though both the American and the Israeli defense establishments have asserted that this week's battle-dress rehearsal does not indicate a heightened alert in relation to the Islamic Republic -- pointing to the fact that these drills have been undertaken every two years since 2001 -- the truth is that talks with Tehran have been going nowhere.
Other than Vienna, that is, where American, Russian, Chinese, British, French and German negotiators continue to engage in a charade with their Iranian counterparts that is enabling the ayatollah-led regime to forge ahead fast with its nuclear program.
On a short visit to Israel last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to prepare for what the former called the largest drill for U.S. troops under the European Command. During his two-day stay, Hagel reiterated "America's commitment to a strong and secure Israel … [that] has not and never will be anything but complete and unwavering."
Accompanied, as they have been, by the Obama administration's appalling attitude towards Israel, these words are not reassuring. Indeed, no matter what concessions Netanyahu makes to Washington and Ramallah, he is still blamed for the Palestinian Authority's intransigence. Regardless of the PA's ongoing incitement to violence against Jews and recent rapprochement with Hamas, it is Israel that is called to task by its so-called closest ally -- in language used by its worst enemies.
Coupled with the delusional belief of the White House and State Department that a deal with Iran need not limit its "right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes," Hagel's statement is no more than meaningless lip service.
Furthermore, if Sunday's unconfirmed report in the Jerusalem-based military intelligence website DEBKAfile is even remotely accurate, "America's commitment to a strong and secure Israel" is not worth the hot air it takes for Hagel to utter it.
According to the report, which was picked up by the Iranian-run Fars News Agency, the U.S. told Iran that demands for the restriction of its arsenal would not apply to the Shahab-3 ballistic missile. The report also claims that Netanyahu and Ya'alon were not happy when informed of this by Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Shahab missiles have an estimated range of 900-1,200 miles, striking distance from Israel, northern India and parts of Eastern Europe. It is thus that Iran wants its ballistic missile stock and development completely off the table. After all, there is no point in having warheads, nuclear or otherwise, without the weapons of delivery to attach them to.
"Our defense equipment can no way go under discussion in the negotiations," said Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi on Friday, following another round of fruitless talks in Vienna.
Earlier in the week, while touring a Revolutionary Guards' aeronautics exhibit, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was even blunter.
"They [the Western countries] expect us to limit our missile program while they constantly threaten Iran with military action," he said. "So this is a stupid, idiotic expectation. … The Revolutionary Guards should … mass produce. This is a main duty of all military officials."
Even without the DEBKAfile story, there is reason to suspect that the Obama administration is going to cave on this issue, even sooner and more readily than on the others. Undersecretary of State and chief Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman indicated as much in February, when challenged by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"If we are successful in assuring ourselves and the world community that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, then them not having a nuclear weapon makes delivery systems almost, not entirely, but almost irrelevant," she said.
It is nice to see Netanyahu and the rest of the public so uplifted by Maccabi's beating such a formidable opponent as Spain. But we must not drop the ball when it comes to confronting Iran. The Obama administration is neither on our team nor a real fan.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"