The relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always been an uneasy one, which has been exacerbated by the pressures that the Israeli leader is putting on the president less than two months before the U.S. general election regarding the looming threat of Iran having nuclear weapons.
Last week Netanyahu lashed out with his frustrations with the Obama administration, saying, "those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
So where is that red line? Netanyahu discussed that on Sunday morning on NBC's Meet The Press.
"I just think it's important to communicate to Iran that there's a line that they won't cross," Netanyahu said. A red line in this case works to reduce the chances of the need for military action because once the Iranians understand that there's a line that they can't cross, they're not likely to cross it."
While trying to explain where the "red line" is, Netanyahu introduced for the first time his concept of the "Red Zone," a football term used to describe when one team is moving in closer to other team's goal line.
"They're in the last 20 yards," Netanyahu said of Iran and their quest for nuclear weapons (Iran has always denied that, saying their nuclear program is all about energy). "And you can't let them cross that goal line. You can't let them score a touchdown, because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences, for the peace and security of us all, of the world, really."
The idea of Israel invading Iran has only grown in recent months, even though many high in Israeli defense circles have warned against that (or against the constant chatter that Netanyahu and others have engaged in about it this summer).
It's a fact that "Bibi" worked alongside Mitt Romney decades ago, and they have a friendship of some sort. It's because of that, and the fact that Obama and Netanyahu's relationship has been rocky, to say the least, that has prompted some U.S. political reporters to speculate that the Israeli Prime Minister is deliberately making such provocative comments because he favors Romney being elected president.
When host David Gregory asked if he believed Romney would take a harder line than Obama on Iran, Netanyahu refused to take the bait. "What's guiding my statements is not the American political calendar but the Iranian nuclear category."
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, was on the program earlier. When asked what the administration would call the "red line," she said, "Our bottom line, if you want to call it a red line, the president's bottom line, has been that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. And we will take no option off the table to insure that it does not acquire a nuclear weapon, including a military option."
Rice said the U.S. intelligence community's opinion is that there is "time and space" for the pressure - which includes what analysts say have been the toughest economic sanctions ever against them - to turn Iran around.
Netahnyahu says that Iran is "six months away from being about 90 percent away from having enriched uranium for an atom bomb."
Who's right? On the same program, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward said that after 40 years of covering U.S. intelligence, he doesn't believe anyone knows for sure how close Iran is to building a bomb.
And what about the relationship between the two countries? Obama's critics, like Charles Krautmammer, say the American president has been a mishmash on the Iran issue.
The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why (Anthony) Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.
But is bombing Iran in the U.S. best interests? That is, after all, the chief job of the commander in chief - look out for the country and protect us.Time magazine's Joe Klein calls Netanyahu "outrageous" for trying to drag the U.S. into his war.
He is trying push us into a war that is not in our national interest, a war that would only further destabilize a region that is already teetering near chaos. He is trying to get us to damage our relations with the rest of the world—especially the Russians and Chinese, whom we spent great diplomatic effort luring into the Iranian economic sanctions—so that he can pursue a strategy that even the Israeli military and intelligence communities find questionable. President Obama will not yield to this pressure, nor should he—and every American should know the implications of what Netanyahu and his American neoconservative allies, including Mitt Romney, are proposing.