Obama Bluffed

In a March, 2012 article by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg we have this tidbit:

In the most extensive interview he has given about the looming Iran crisis, Obama told me earlier this week that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” He went on, “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”

Well, as president of the United States, Obama clearly does bluff.  He did bluff, Iran called his bluff, and now the chips are flowing to the other side of the table.  Of course, I knew that he was bluffing as soon as he denied it.  As a long-time poker player it is obvious that when someone sitting across from you claims that they do not bluff, that they are bluffing.  No player who makes such a statement is taken seriously and whatever else Barack Obama may be, he is certainly a player.

Basically what the Iran deal comes down to is that in exchange for a great financial windfall, due to the lifting of sanctions, the Iranians get to continue enriching uranium as they come closer and closer to that much coveted nuclear arsenal.  You cannot really blame Iran.  They look to their right and what do they see?  US troops in Iraq.  They look to their left and what do that see?  An Afghanistan that until quite recently was occupied by US forces.  So naturally they want the bomb as a deterrence.  They may want it for other reasons, but there is no question that they also want it for deterrence and who can blame them?  If I were the Ayatollah Khamenei I would want nuclear weaponry, as well.

But just because Iran has very good reason for wanting a nuclear arsenal it does not mean that the United States, and the west, more generally, is obligated to allow it to happen.  Nonetheless, that is precisely what we are seeing.  The Obama administration never had any real intention of preventing a Sharia Bomb, because the Obama administration is weak.  The United States, under this administration, is in retreat throughout the world and ultimately has not the fortitude or the will to prevent Tehran from going nuclear.

Does this mean that when Iran attains its nuclear arsenal they will automatically use it against Israel and / or the west?  I sincerely doubt it.  Despite their crazed End of Days eschatological religious view, the ayatollahs are neither stupid nor entirely irrational.  They don’t want to see Tehran turned into a parking lot any more than we would like to see Washington D.C. or Jerusalem or Sydney obliterated.  But that’s not really the point.  An Iranian bomb will mean a power shift throughout the Middle East with Iran becoming the regional hegemon, the continued ascension of political Islam, and an arms race that will see both Egypt and Saudi Arabia scrambling to come up with nuclear weapons of their own.

Meanwhile, Iran will gain the power to harass Israel to its Turkish Delight and Israel’s ability to respond will be severely curtailed under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

At this point the only real question is not if Iran will get the bomb, but when?

And why?

Because Obama bluffed and he did it badly.


Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

{By the way, as an aside, this is my 40th piece for JDU.  It’s almost hard to believe that JDU has been around long enough for me to log 40 pieces! }

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  1. Michael

    you are 100% right. Nobody in his right mind makes a “decisive” statement and then openly admits that he’s bluffing.

    The rationale in respect of balance of power(s) carries a few invariables.
    – posturing is not without real concrete intent and purpose
    – use of existing, parctical power for purpose completion cannot be eliminated
    – historicity cannot apply in the dynamics of strategic interests
    – power self efacement does not function under insufficient pressure and real recognisable opposition
    – real destructive capabilities cannot be discounted only as mere posturing.
    And thus I complete the circle.

    Iran must be considered as an immediate danger for Israel ONLY !!!

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were spot demonstration which did NOT affect any others than the local residents. Japan at the time was not anybody’s favourite dish. Israel, unfortunately, today is seen as a geopolitical paria by a great majority of states. If – has vSholem !!!- affected by only a few nuclear heads by Iran, Iran will not be attacked in the same manner by ANYONE.
    The Iranian Govt. will receive the greatest local support, together with their sectarian brethern and all terrorist known and less known entities.
    If Israel will be made to suffer, the terrorist actions against OTHER Western targets will diminish, as at least part of their “mission” would have been accomplished. A boon for the non Israelis currently worried about int’l terrorism.
    Subsequent sanctions will mean NOTHING to a devastated Israel ( G-d forbid !!)

    By these considerations, the incentives for an active military nuclear Iran seem positive.

    • Otto,

      when you claim that historicity cannot apply in the dynamics of strategic interests, it is unclear to me just what you mean.

      If by historicity you mean that which contains actual historical authenticity, then why would you think that it cannot apply to strategic dynamics?

      I would think that just the opposite is the case, unless I am misunderstanding you entirely, which is quite possible.

  2. Must clarify one of my comments.
    Historicity, previous experience, WOULD apply in relative terms, of course.
    My comment relates to the currently prevailing consideration that , since 1945 Hiroshima, nuclear threats did not eventuate in actual events, see mainly the Cuban crisis and general Cold War climate. This means that the, historica,l post 1945, typicality does not have to be maintained. There are no objectives imperatives, hinderences !!!

    Michael, over to you, mate.

    • Ah!

      I replied to above comment before I read this one!

      I do find this question of historicity to be very interesting, but from the perspective of someone who endeavors to develop new ways of thinking on the Arab-Israel conflict, and thus alternative language in the discussion.

      History is key and I am afraid that I am going to become a broken record on this topic.

      This may relate only tangentially to your larger point, but if much of the world has come to believe that the Jew of the Middle East are essentially villains in their treatment of the local Arabs, what we need to do is expand the context of the discussion both geographically and historically.

      From an historical standpoint the conflict must be placed within the context of 1,300 years of Jewish persecution under the boot of Arab-Muslim imperial rule. We cannot understand the conflict, and certainly cannot expect others to do so in a reasonable way, without stressing the necessary historical backdrop.

      Thus historicity cannot apply in the dynamics of our strategic interests, Jewish strategic interests.

      In any case, today is Thanksgivikkah and I am in charge of carving the bird and making the gravy.

      You guys have a terrific day.

  3. A happy Chanukah to you Michael ( aren’t you guys tired of giving, howz about thankstaking for a change?

    Now, let’s carve up the topic of historical relevance.
    I’ll start with Husserl for two principal reasons:
    – you know the guy and the stuff he was wrongly promoting
    – in spite of the irrelevance of his theory,apparent contradiction between change and permanence, dialectical”developments” OUTSIDE actual negotiation processes maintain the luxury of a parallel theoretical world. I am inviting you out of it.

    Here I will side with Popper against giants such as Plato and his metaphysical existentialism.
    I consider the theory of the realization of the hidden potentialities and. at once. discard it based on the mentioned dynamics of the intervention of NOT a priori existent factors.
    Very briefly and separated from a more complex presentation, some of the active factors in the Israel-Palestinian conflict have NO historical character at all.
    While imperialistic expansionism is not a new factor, certain determinant specifics carry modifying elements of the drastic nature NOT previously experienced. The most important is the specific newly confected element of a Palestinian national identity. The association of the individual with a space based on a cohesive ideology it totally new at the “Palestinian”. It forms the very basis of resistance.
    As recently as 1947-48 the abandonment of space for the Arab inhabitants of the area concerned carried no national ethos at all, no cohesive factors among the group. For a while the dispersion was seen as the “natural”, normal outcome of a lost conflict. While quite sedentary, the group had an extended kinship with neighbouring areas/people who, for all intents and purposes, accepted them under another new state identity, Jordan.
    External factors intervened and manufactured a cohesive notion of national identity and purpose. Infused with spiritual existing commonality, Islam in the main, added the organic ingredient of “possession”, it developed in light speed record time into the most assertive “national” expression EVER.
    Now, at the stage of tangible realities, this new factor, historically non-existent prior to 1948, deals on terms which would NEED to be considered equal, i.e. the CURRENT juxtaposition of forces based on potentially IMMEDIATE conflict, one totally INDIFFERENT of any other factors.
    Cynically, there is no “Historians Regiment ” in the actual weapon carrying IDF, is there?