As U.S. rhetoric intensifies with the prediction that Israel will attack Iran sooner rather than later, the president has an opportunity to stop war with an ace in the cards he has yet to play.
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Matt Lauer, the president said that while 'all options are on the table,' he also wanted to pursue diplomatic efforts yet did not disclose what those efforts might entail. If he is sincere about diplomacy, then sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton immediately to the Middle East would be a no-brainer.
It is puzzling that the most logical and obvious thing to do for any president who wants to defuse international tensions is apparently not 'on the table.' While staring at a conflagration that potentially promises to be more devastating than Iraq, it is inconceivable that Obama has not acted more forcefully and more urgently in the pursuit of peace. With the real possibility of nuclear weapons being armed and ready to go as they were during the Yom Kippur War, (see The Samson Option by Seymour Hersh), the president's failure to dispatch Secretary Clinton is inexplicable.
Despite a long, complicated relationship between the U.S. and Iran since the 1950's, the president does not have the luxury of allowing Israel to continue to make unreasonable demands on U.S. foreign policy. (See The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt) The unfortunate reality is that the president, who won a premature Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, has yet to exhibit the necessary leadership or political skills to create 'change we can believe In.' He has yet to assure the American people, the people of Iran and most importantly, the Israelis that peace is preferable to war. If his severe tone at the recent State of the Union address is any example of his current thinking, the country is headed for another bloody, protracted and unnecessary conflict.
During recent House consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540) which focused public attention on the indefinite detention of American citizens, the Act slyly slipped in what could only be the result of a bullying attack by AIPAC when language to prohibit diplomatic overtures between a United States citizen and any member of the Iranian government was added. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was the sole voice of protest on the House floor. The utter stupidity of adopting such ill-conceived legislative intent cannot avoid asking whether members of Congress are representing the best interests of the American people or the Israeli government. (See The Israel Lobby et al)
Most Americans have been impressed with how the 67th Secretary of State has conducted diplomacy as the president's representative while visiting 93 countries and traveling over 700,000 miles in 288 days. Secretary Clinton has proven to be a professional who knows how to get the job done and once given the task, if anyone can bring Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu to the same table, it is Hillary. After all her years of marriage to Bill "let the good times roll" Clinton, she knows better than anyone how to deal with narcissistic, difficult men.
If, and it's a big if, the president did send Hillary into the lion's den, an important element of effective diplomacy is to understand the background and history of the participants; especially their mutual experience as there is more to the Israel-Iran relationship than has been previously understood.
Iran's 'de facto' recognition of the State of Israel in 1950 began with establishing a "peripheral alliance" with Iran providing the necessary geo-political balance for Israel as an enclave set in the midst of its more hostile Arab neighbors as well as initiating economic and trade cooperation during the Mossadeq era including a line of credit provided by the U.S. between the Iran and Israel National Banks.
Once the independent Mossadeq government nationalized its oil industry, a CIA-inspired coup d'etat in 1953 restored the Shah to the throne as relations between the two countries improved. By 1957, the CIA engineered the creation of SAVAK, the Shah's repressive police which immediately linked with Israel's Mossad to begin a joint effort to destabilize northern Iraq's Kurd population. (See Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, 1991, pg. 103)
The triumvirate covert relationship continued beyond 1979 as Ayatollah Khomeini verbally attacked Israel as the U.S. applied sanctions against Iran while continuing to provide weapons, sometimes through proxies. Israel continued to export military equipment to Iran and occasionally acted as 'middleman' for Iran on military sales to the Chinese as it did in 1985. (Dangerous Liaison et al, pg. 338) Through the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's, Israel provided Iran with necessary armaments and Yitzhak Rabin, former Israeli prime minister (1972-1974 and 1992-1995) praised their relationship in 1987 stating that "Iran is Israel's best friend..."
The Iran-Contra scandal of 1987 with the Reagan Administration selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of six American hostages is well-known. What is little remembered is the role of the Israeli government in providing 504 TOW anti-tank missiles and 80 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Iran on behalf of the U.S. government with the U.S. ultimately sending 40 Hawk missiles directly to Iran -- all in violation of the U.S. arms embargo.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's brought about a geo-political-strategic re-alignment as its military presence evaporated in the Middle East and, with the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, Iraq ceased to be an adversary to be reckoned with. As Iran became an 'existential' threat, a new era of competitive regional interests dawned with the U.S. solidifying its alliance with Israel as it further isolated Iran.
Dr. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council suggests that 'Playing the anti-Israeli card helps Iran overcome the Persian-Arab and Shiite-Sunni divide' with Iran seen by the U.S. as sabotaging its efforts to "build an Israel-centric Middle East based on Iran's prolonged isolation."
David Stewart's brilliant analysis in "Persians, Spartans and Republicans" proposes that Israel's concern with Iran's nuclear program is less about who has the most nukes but rather reflects a vying of competing regional interests with fear on the part of Israel which has controlled U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast for the last 40 years.