Biden & Saudi Arabia Threaten Iran

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Two clear shots across the Iranian bow this weekend as Vice President Biden and Saudi Arabia signal a willingness to allow Israel to take military action against Iranian nuclear sites.

Marc Lynch dubs the Vice President's remarks on ABC's This Week as potentially the "worst foriegn policy blunder of the Obama administration." Commentary's Jennifer Rubin is heartened.

I find the remarks a bit incomprehensible. I believe there is a segment inside the Obama administration, represented by Dennis Ross, that believes that a negotiated settlement with Iran is impossible unless the Iranians fear for their lives. But why use Israel as the bad cop and reinforce the perception in the region that Israel is merely a client state of the U.S.?

As Biden correctly points out, Israel is a sovereign nation and must pursue its national security interests as it sees fit. From an Israeli vantage point, I can see why they would feel compelled to take military action against Iran's nuclear program.

The real question is where the administration sees America's interests. Do they view Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat which could claim the lives of Americans? Or do they view it as a conventional one, which would complicate our dealings in the Middle East? I think it's safe to assume that Israel views Iran as the former - as an existential threat to the lives of its citizens. But is that the lens through which the U.S. must view Iran?

With troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. is in a position where the fallout from any Israeli military action could land on our head, as Admiral Mullen hinted at on his own Sunday show appearance. If we were to overtly green-light an Israeli strike, we could very well be endangering the gains in Iraq and any prospective gains in Afghanistan - to say nothing of the potential risk to U.S. civilians or other regional interests from Iranian reprisals.

There is a lot of worry in the U.S. that a nuclear-armed Iran would achieve some sort of hegemony over the Middle East. But the Saudi news in particular underscores the context in which the Iranian threat needs to be understood. With the exception of Syria, Iran has no allies in the region. If they proceed to test a nuclear weapon, they won't achieve regional hegemony - they'll drive all their allies deeper into the arms of the U.S. and (quietly) Israel.

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