It’s not surprising that the Obama administration is trying to talk Israel out of attacking Iran. The administration — and the top brass — are worried about the possible consequences of Israeli strikes. The Iranians are almost certainly bluffing when they threaten to attack American targets in retaliation for an Israeli strike: They would have nothing to gain and a lot to lose. But concerns about a potentially serious disruption in the oil supply through the Persian Gulf, which could draw the U.S. Navy into action against Iranian forces along the Persian Gulf, are more well-founded.
What is inexplicable is why the Obama administration is going public with the pressure it’s putting on Israel. Sanctions are a powerful vise, and they are having an effect, but they are far more likely to result in an internal regime change (eventually) than in this regime abandoning its nuclear-weapons program. The only thing that is going to stop the Iranians is the fear of a military attack. The U.S. should be helping the Israelis deter Iran’s further nuclear advance by helping them to scare the Iranians into thinking that an attack is coming. Instead, the Obama administration is doing everything possible to telegraph to Iran that we’re terrified of a conflict and are doing everything to prevent it. That’s exactly the same as inviting the Iranians to continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons. If there is an explanation for this, other than incompetence, I would love to know it.
— Mario Loyola is former counsel for foreign and defense policy to the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee.