The volatile Middle East
Armstrong Williams | 3/29/2012, 1:36 p.m.
This is an incredibly tenuous time in the Middle East: the Assad regime killing its own citizens in Syria; Hezbollah with tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel that could be launched on orders from its patron Iran; Iran racing toward nuclear capability in defiance of the world; and the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt, etc.
The Arab Spring has created great uncertainty rather than pacifying the region, while the United States has finally brought most of its troops home from Iraq, though Iraq's democracy is tenuous at best and Iran continues to pull many strings within its long-time rival.
All this uncertainty has made Israel more of a target of regional derision. Without the Mubarak regime to pacify Egypt and King Abullah of Jordan facing increased pressure to reform, aka become radically Islamic, Israel is increasingly alone. However, we know that Israel will ultimately do whatever it feels it has to do in order to protect itself.
It is not surprising that Israel told the United States that it is not going to update the United States as to its actions and intention. This makes sense, showing that Israel is not in a position of having to ask permission, as well as making it clear that the Obama administration did not give a green light if Israel does decide to launch a pre-emptive strike. We call this having your cake and eating it to. Diplomacy demands that we cannot openly support Israel bombing Iran, yet we continue to hope they will solve the problem for us.
Israel could face major blowback if it launches an attack, including from tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets, terrorist cells activated against it by Iran, etc. However, the biggest obstacle may be how the rest of the world and the United Nations react. The United Nations is already anti-Israel; China and Russia will never turn against Iran unless it is actually foolish enough to nuke the United States or Israel; and Europe has long disliked Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians--not to mention the pressure many countries would face from their ever-growing Muslim underclass.
The United States is really Israel's only ally, but the Obama administration doesn't believe it needs to make that clear. In fact, in many ways this administration has distanced itself from Israel, but the fact remains that Israel could face an existential threat if Iran gets the bomb.
The conversation between Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu could have huge implications for both deciding on a course of action. What they say to one another and how they interpret each other's posture will be critical.
America supports Israel because it has long been the lone Western-style democracy in a region of the world that is characterized by despotic regimes that are unstable and don't respect human rights. Even with the Iraq "experiment," we are left with only one real ally in the Middle East.
Global pressure continues to mount on Iran. You would think this would make it more difficult for them to justify the nuclear program to the Iranian people. The economy is straining and the sanctions are increasingly biting, but Russia and China, as well as Iranian puppet regimes, have been complicit in keeping the country afloat. The threat of military reprisal has kept the population at bay.