And then Obama blinked.
Iran blackmail, the coming campaign
Now that Obama has turned to Congress to authorize force against Syria, he is under relentless attack in Israel, with a chorus of pundits and politicians hammering him for his act of betrayal and cowardice in the face of evil. Amidst the din of condemnation, a talking point has emerged that will likely figure at the heart of Israel's case to Congress and the American public this week.
The message was neatly summarized in the headline of a piece by the Likud-friendly correspondent Herb Keinon in the Jerusalem Post: "Weak world response on Syria boosts chance of strong Israeli action on Iran." Referring to Obama's decision and the British' parliament's vote against participating in a strike on Syria, Keinon wrote, "That kind of international dallying is not the type of behavior that will instill confidence in Israeli leaders that they can count on the world when it comes to Iran."
At Haaretz, Amos Harel reinforced the talking point in a piece of analysis that claimed "Arabs perceive Obama as weak" -- but which cited absolutely zero Arabs. Running through a litany of examples of supposed American weakness, Harel concluded, "it's no wonder that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is becoming increasingly persuaded that no one will come to his aid if Iran suddenly announces that it is beginning to enrich uranium to 90 percent."
The threat of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran if the US does not act on Syria is slowly seeping into American media, and will almost certainly grow more pronounced this week as pro-Israel pundits and members of the Obama administration unite on their message. AIPAC may also join the push for congressional authorization, a move the night flower-style lobby managed to avoid during the run-up to invading Iraq. If the Israel lobby is forced into the open, it could hold the prospect of an attack on Iran like a gun to the heads of members of Congress, warning them that the price of inaction is a regional conflagration.
Though Congress will be under unrelenting pressure from powerful forces to authorize force, the vote provides an unprecedented opportunity for opponents of US military intervention in the Middle East to mobilize. Anti-war forces may not be able to match the financial muscle or public relations power of pro-war elements, but they have opinion firmly on their side. And a direct conflict with the American public may be the one fight Netanyahu does not want to pick.