The title of this post is the best metaphor I can think of to illustrate what Netanyahu has done with his threat to Iran. He’s issued an ultimatum not just Iran but Obama, too.
To see this as an ultimatum, you have to ask if Netanyahu is bluffing. In thinking of the answer to that question, I’m reminded of a talk by a terrorism professor from the University of Haifa I attended earlier this year. This professor also happened to be a major in the IDF too; so he was an Israeli hawk. His talk was about Gaza, but he was candid about other topics while talking with students after the speech. Naturally, Iran came up. In his view — and we can consider this the Israeli hawk view, which is what got Netanyahu elected — if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, that’s the end of Israel. Period.
I know we might not regard this as logical, but it’s not my job to point out logic. I’m just stating fact.
So is Netanyahu bluffing? There’s a distinct possibility that he’s not. If Israel considers the stakes high enough — and they’re always incredibly sensitive about what the stakes are, as demonstrated in the recent Gaza Crisis prompted by ill-guided rockets which hardly cause damage (not defending them; again, just stating fact) — they will launch air raids on Iran.
As for the feasibility of those raids, if they happen, that’s the test for Obama. (Another mess left for him from Bush, but that’s different story.) Israel could choose to fly 500-700 jets over Iraq to get to Iran. Should they do such, would the US respond by launching a massive attack to protect Iran?
But if Obama kowtows to Netanyahu, he risks inflaming more conflict among Middle Eastern countries angered by Netanyahu’s actions.
Akin to the ultimatum Obama just gave big auto, Netanyahu just served a warning to Obama. As far as foreign policy situations go, this is pretty much the definition of not good.