Barack Obama Must Hold His Nerve on Iran
There are many alarming aspects to the escalating tension over Iran's nuclear programme. But perhaps the most worrying of all is that every pressure on Barack Obama - be it political, economic, or, most of all, electoral - is pushing him to take a hard line. He must resist.
This week's fractious talks between the US President and his Israeli counterpart have only added to the strain. Mr Obama attempted to set a temperate tone: blending the assurance that the US will "always have Israel's back" with a much-needed warning about the dangers of too much "loose talk" of military conflict.
Benjamin Netanyahu showed little sign of softening his bellicose stance, however. "I will never let my people live under the shadow of annihilation," the Israeli Prime Minister told his US audience, adding a darkly emotive comparison with US unwillingness to bomb the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
It is not that Israel's concerns about Iran are unjustified, or that it has no right to defend its interests. And with Iran rapidly shifting its enrichment facilities into heavily fortified bunkers beyond the reach of Israeli weapons, Mr Netanyahu's assertion that "none of us can afford to wait much longer" is an understandable one.
Nonetheless, both sense and feeling argue in the strongest possible terms against an attack on Iran. Not only would such a move achieve little, setting Tehran's nuclear ambitions back by perhaps two years at best. The cost - in terms of loss of life, of diplomatic relations soured for a generation, and of the potential for wider geopolitical catastrophe - is simply too high.
Neither should Mr Obama's resistance be restricted to the subject of an immediate strike. Mr Netanyahu wants the US to draw a "red line" - which, once crossed, would trigger instant military intervention - at Tehran's acquiring the capacity to build a bomb. So far, Mr Obama has maintained his position, insisting that the red line is not the capability but the construction. …