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Newsweek Gets Inside Obama's Iran Calculations

Newsweek Gets Inside Obama's Iran Calculations

The current issue of Newsweek has a must-read inside look at what drives President Obama’s Iran policy, including the ups and downs of his relations with Israel on the matter.

The article, by Newsweek writers Daniel Klaidman, Dan Ephron and Eli Lake (Lake is a former Forward correspondent), reports that Iran was the main topic of Mossad director Tamir Pardo’s secret trip to Washington two weeks ago. America is pressing Israel to give sanctions time to work before attacking Iran’s nuclear installations. Israel worries that by that time, Iran’s nuke infrastructure will be too secure for an Israeli raid to destroy, and only America will have the capacity. Among other things, Pardo wanted to know whether America is likely to attack, how advanced its preparations are, how it will react if Israel attacks and so on.

Israel has several times sought a promise from Obama to attack if sanctions fail, but hasn’t gotten one. As a result, Israel keeps its own intentions vague. This is an improvement from the total information blackout that Prime Minister Netanyahu imposed on Washington from June to October last year, in pique over Obama’s “based on the 1967 borders” speech. Today information sharing is quite extensive, though Washington keeps a certain amount of intelligence from Israel when it fears it could enable actions that violate U.S. law, like assassinations.

Obama first discussed Iran with Israeli leaders back in 2008, while he was still a candidate, and he “impressed everyone with his determination to stop Iran from going nuclear,” Newsweek reports. His conversation with then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, however, left Netanyahu troubled that Obama “didn’t talk specifically about Israel’s security”:

Much of Newsweek’s report is devoted to the evolution of Obama’s own Iran thinking, including his initial determination to pursue dialogue so that if and when it failed, skeptics like Russia and China could be brought around to sanctions, having been shown that there really was no other path. Newsweek understates the degree to which this was interpreted in Jerusalem as weakness, which Washington Republicans exploited to the hilt. In any event, Newsweek writes,

On the other hand, “Obama’s calculus … has to take in other factors as well,” including:

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

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Newsweek Gets Inside Obama's Iran Calculations

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