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March 04, 2015

Thoughts On Netanyahu's Speech: Much Ado About Nothing

My overwhelming reaction to yesterday’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is, “that’s it?” Maybe part of my reaction is based on having seen only part of the speech on TV but having read the transcript. Delivery and the setting can give an average speech a much bigger feel, which was the whole point of inviting him to address Congress. But mostly, aside from a few up to date reference to the current negotiations, I’d heard it all before from him. Go back and watch or read any of Netanyahu’s speeches to the UN or AIPAC over the last few years and it’s basically there.

The problem is that while Netanyahu is right, it doesn’t matter.

Obama has proven to be impervious to outside pressure when he’s committed to doing something stupid and or dangerous, which is to say most of the time. If anything Netanyahu’s high profile challenge to him will probably make it more likely that Obama will see himself as doing the right thing.

But remember this isn’t just Obama. Sure the US is the big player here but which of the other members of the P5+1 group (the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) is going to be any harder on Iran than Obama? The UK maybe. But France and Germany? And you can forget about Russia and China.

Netanyahu’s speech amounted to “get a better deal”. Well that’s not on the table. Not only will the Iranians not agree to a deal which in anyway makes it harder for them to get nukes, no one on the other side will force the issue. They are all looking for an off-ramp so they can say, “I hold in my hand a piece of paper….” And by God they’ll get that.

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, he isn’t dealing with Churchill/FDR, Reagan/Thatcher or Bush/Blair but Obama/Cameron/Merkel/ Hollande

And if Bibi is successful in killing the deal being worked out in its current form, then what? Do you really think we’ll return to the status quo ante sanctions regime? Let’s say I have…doubts.

Sean Davis of The Federalist posited on Twitter the idea that the real aim of the speech, or at least one of them, was to stiffen Democrats for a veto override vote for a tough US sanctions bill. Again, I have doubts about how effective that will be. The Democrats have been steadfast in their support for Obama. The idea that enough of them will undercut the President on such a major issue seems unlikely. In the House it would take about 45 Democrats to override. Nancy Pelosi seems to have her finger on the pulse of her caucus. If her contemptuous response to Netanyahu is any indication getting that many Democrats (in what’s essentially a liberal rump caucus) is going to be a very steep climb.

The only way I could see getting enough Democrats to throw Obama under the bus would be if Hillary Clinton strongly and loudly opposed the deal. That’s the only cover that would suffice. And she won’t. Why would she? Better to have it off the table and deal with it when she’s President that to pick this fight now. Remember, any opposition to a deal will be spun as “supporting war with Iran” by the left. Hillary is at best on thin ice with that crowd. There’s no reason to stir them up for no real gain. She’ll say weak sauce stuff about it, promise to be tough in monitoring it and promise to be Israel’s BFF and move on.

As shopworn as Netanyahu’s speech was he has the better of the argument. What he doesn’t have is anything resembling enough pull to implement them. His only real course of action is a unilateral attack by Israel. I honestly doubt that will be a real option should the P5+1 talks produce a deal.

The response by all parties, including the US, would be so costly to Israel. It would probably lead to the start of full recognition of “Palestine” by all parties, including the US. And then things will get really bad. At least for the rest of Obama’s term.

If the deal falls through Israel might be able to go it alone and not pay that high of a price or they may just wait him out and hope a Republican wins. But even if the next President is someone like GOP super-hawk Marco Rubio, it’s not like he’s going to launch an attack at 12:01pm on January 20th, 2017. He’ll have other things he’ll want to do first domestically (like amnesty!), and will have to at least try diplomacy. So you’re looking at another year or so beyond that.

We need to face a rather obvious fact…Iran wants a nuke and they won’t stop until they have one. We can’t negotiate them out of that because we simply don’t have anything they want more to offer them in exchange. They’ll bet, correctly, that once they have it they are safe and we’ll do business with them because reality will force us to.

Netanyahu was right and has been for a while but the last best chance to stop Iran from going nuclear died with the fraudulent NIE in 2007. Once Bush’s hands were tied and Obama was elected, the die was cast. The rest is just killing time until the inevitable.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:06 PM

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