A frustrated US President Barack Obama over the weekend questioned how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would address the Iranian nuclear problem, since he was clearly dissatisfied with the American approach.
An Israeli expert had already answered that question, noting that the only remaining viable solution was to intervene militarily.
Speaking at a press conference in Panama City, Obama said that he was well aware of Israel’s concerns regarding the nuclear framework agreement he and other Western powers had reached with Iran a week earlier.
“I have repeatedly asked – what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon?” said Obama, insisting that he had “yet to obtain a good answer on that.”
Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel, said the question was irrelevant.
In an op-ed published last Thursday, Inbar explained that for all of Obama’s efforts to defend the deal, it was “ the perceptions of Middle East actors” that carried the most weight.
And Israel wasn’t the only one worried.
“For example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have deplored the fact that the US is bestowing international legitimacy on Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state,” noted Inbar. “They probably believe the interpretations of the deal offered by Tehran more than those professed in Washington.”
As a result, the Middle East stood on the brink of a dangerous nuclear arms race.
But Inbar did concede that the only alternatives to Obama’s less-than-appealing deal were to accept a nuclear Iran or bomb its nuclear infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the expert concluded, the American leader didn’t have what it takes to choose the latter option, and Iran knew it.
Israel, however, continued to mull a preemptive strike.
“If we have no choice we have no choice… the military option is on the table,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio earlier this month, noting that Israel had not sought American approval before bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.
Days earlier, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, a senior figure in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reaffirmed that Israel remained his nation’s primary target.
“Erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable,” Gen. Naqdi was reported to have said, even as Obama’s team was preparing to sign a deal with the Islamic Republic.