In a strained defense of Obama’s Iranian policy, David Ignatius (of the Washington Post) claims that the White House is puzzled by Israel’s “red line” demand. According to Ignatius, the United States “has already drawn a red line,” but he doesn’t bother to tell us what that red line is. Evidently, the White House and Ignatius are keeping the red line a secret, which is pretty funny considering how the administration routinely leaks such information.
The pretext for secrecy is that “some ambiguity is useful in deterring an adversary.” I would have thought that ambiguity is more certain to create miscalculations than deterrence, but never mind. Ignatius also loves Obama’s claims that he has a “policy” to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that it’s in America’s national security interest to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Well, okay, but such statements are weak evidence that the U.S. actually has a “red line.”
It appears that Israel’s real issue is not red lines so much as “trust that they will be enforced.” Ignatius dismisses this concern, finding that Obama’s covert action against al-Qaeda should be proof enough that Israel can trust him. But trusting Obama on this ground would be unwise. As others have pointed out, the drone program was in place before Obama became president, and he certainly is astute enough to realize that if he reduced the program and America got hit again by terrorists, the Democrats could forget about the White House for a generation.
Netanyahu also has other grounds for doubting Obama. Everyone knows that Obama’s background is left-wing with a mentality stuck in the 1960s and 1970s. Obama demonstrated this when he negotiated a deal with the Soviets (oops, I mean the Russians) early in his presidency, as if we were still in the middle of the Cold War. Left-wingers are famous for their “blame America first” mentality and consider America as an oppressor on the world stage. No wonder Obama went on an apology tour and promotes the idea of “leading from behind.”
For Obama, to act is to oppress, so we can’t expect him to do much, although apparently he has directed the U.S. military to develop plans to attack Iran if it crosses the secret line. But this doesn’t prove Obama’s sincerity. Obama’s secret line could just as well be drawn to trigger U.S. action only after Israel has attacked Iran and only in response to Iranian attacks on U.S. assets. All in all, Ignatius’s defense of Obama’s policy is a stretch.