Earlier today Phil Klein argued at the Washington Examiner that President Obama may be leaving Israel “little choice but to strike Iran, and soon” — because Obama won’t get specific and lay out the kind of redlines that the Israelis want to hear, they can’t trust him to pull the trigger on airstrikes, and if the Israelis can’t trust the US, they can’t afford to wait and will have to act within months or even weeks. The consequences could be dire, but, from the Israeli perspective, not as dire as a nuclear Islamic Republic.
But at a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee tonight, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell — strongly criticizing Obama’s policies toward Iran — took the rhetorical step that Obama hasn’t:
[T]onight I am prepared to propose… a policy which has the clarity and the specificity that the situation demands. And that policy is this: if Iran, at any time, begins to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or decides to go forward with a weapons program, then the United States will use overwhelming force to end that program.
In my judgment, there is broad bipartisan support for the administration’s stated goal with respect to Iran, and a strong declaratory policy like this can be expected to have the support of strong majorities of both parties in Congress, and thus the solid support of the American people.
All that’s been lacking until now is a clear, declaratory policy. And if the administration is reluctant for some reason to articulate it, then Congress will attempt to do it for him.
So tonight I make the following commitment in support of the policy I have proposed: if at any time the intelligence community presents the Congress with an assessment that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or has taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon – consistent with protecting classified sources and methods – I will consult with the President and joint congressional leadership and introduce before the Senate an authorization for the use of military force.
The message here is that, even if the Israelis are wary of Obama, they should trust Congress to force him to take military action if becomes necessary.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke later in the evening (after some nearly content-free platitudes from Speaker Nancy Pelosi), and the subtext was awfully bellicose; Netanyahu spoke at length about why a nuclear Iran is unacceptable and why Israel retains the right to act to defend itself. He may very well have been laying the groundwork for military action soon, and preemptively rebutting critics of such a move. But if Israel doesn’t bomb Iran this year, McConnell may deserve a lot of the credit.