President Obama should be taking Rouhani’s threats seriously. Unfortunately he is not. Increasingly the United States is viewed as a paper tiger on the world stage by America’s enemies. The Iranians know that Obama doesn’t have the stomach for the use of force against Tehran’s nuclear programme, and believe he is vulnerable on the sanctions issue, and open to concessions on this front. They don’t fear the Obama administration the way they feared the Bush administration. The Ayatollah and his acolytes see Obama as a soft touch, and believe they can buy even more valuable time to advance their nuclear ambitions while Washington dithers.
In response to Obama’s UN speech, the Israeli Prime Minister issued a wake-up call to Washington on the Iranian issue, warning that “we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Benjamin Netanyahu is right, pointing out that “Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing.”
These are wise words, written not from the safety of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but in Jerusalem, in the direct line of fire of Iranian missiles, which one day may be armed with nuclear warheads if the Mullahs are not halted in their tracks. For the Israelis, stopping Iran’s nuclear programme is not an academic debating issue. It is a matter of survival.