When President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, the Iranian nuclear weapons program will top the agenda. Israel, which perceives a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, has had a tumultuous relationship with the Obama Administration. However, this is an opportunity for President Obama to repair relations.
A major challenge will be reconciling the two sides’ perceptions on Iran’s nuclear program. With time dwindling until Iran achieves nuclear capabilities, Israel is pressing the Obama Administration to take decisive action. Last month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speculated that Israel would soon launch a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. So far, the Administration hasn’t taken any options off the table, but it has failed to deter Iran from its present course.
Rather, the Administration’s open diplomacy with Iran, combined with delayed “crippling sanctions” and multilateral talks, have yielded little progress. Heritage’s Peter Brookes writes that “until now, Team Obama’s Iran policy has been a hodge-podge of well-intentioned but ineffective diplomatic and economic initiatives aimed at getting Tehran to alter course on its burgeoning nuclear program.” All the while, Iran is increasing production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is beyond what is needed to fuel a power reactor and much closer to the 90 percent enrichment level used in a nuclear bomb.
The Obama Administration should take advantage of the President’s upcoming meeting with Netanyahu to craft a strong, unified response to the Iranian threat. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel in confronting Iran will send a strong message to Tehran that the United States will not tolerate its continued nuclear defiance.