Early Monday morning in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea, helicopters lowered Israeli Commandos onto a Turkish-flagged ferry carrying 600 passengers determined to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Beset by activists armed with poles, knives and guns, the Israelis defended themselves, and the resulting violence left at least nine dead. Hours later, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report claiming that Iran now has enough nuclear fuel, with further enrichment, to make two nuclear weapons. These two stories are not unrelated. And they ought to serve as a signal to the Obama administration that it is time to change its approach to the region.
Israel is an important ally of the United States and the most important partner the U.S. has in an otherwise tough neighborhood. Unlike most of its neighbors, Israel shares our nation’s commitment to democracy and freedom. And also like us, it has every right to defend itself. When the United States supports Israel and makes that support clear on the international stage, Israel’s enemies are less likely to provoke. But when the United States distances itself from Israel, as the Obama administration has done, it makes confrontation and conflict in the region more likely, not less. When enemies see Israel as alone and isolated, they become more, not less, aggressive. When Israel feels alone and isolated, it feels compelled to be more aggressive – to act in its own defense.
What the incident in the Mediterranean Sea demonstrates is just how likely it is that Israel will make a preventive strike on Iran if Iran provokes Israel by further developing its nuclear weapon ambitions. If such an attack were to happen, the United States must recognize Israel’s right to self-defense against a hostile Iranian regime that repeatedly has called for its destruction. The United States must also veto any Security Council resolution that does not acknowledge Iran’s provocations and continued defiance of U.N. resolutions.
Just this past Friday, the IAEA also leaked news that Iran may be hiding equipment capable of pyroprocessing, a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads. This is just the latest in a long line of Iranian deception about its nuclear program. The Obama administration actually enabled this Kabuki with its engagement strategy last year, which culminated in last month’s nuclear deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil – a deal that was based off of President Obama’s own proposed deal with Iran.
And the Obama administration’s strengthening of Iran does not end there. In order to secure new toothless U.N. sanctions on Iran, the Obama administration agreed to allow the Russians to sell the Iranians S-300 anti-aircraft missiles – the very weapon system that Iran would use against an Israeli air strike.
What is most troubling here is the Obama administration policy that has helped create the Middle East we have today. Israel feels increasingly alone. Iran feels increasingly empowered. The White House should have been working to achieve the opposite.
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