Home inContext Hezbollah Threatens, White House Dithers

Hezbollah Threatens, White House Dithers

Joshua Ely

Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah this week disclosed in an interview with the Beirut-based TV station Al Mayadeen that Iranian officials plan to drag the United States into war if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities. “A decision has been taken to respond and the response will be very great,” Nasrallah said, adding that “American bases in the whole region could be Iranian targets. If Israel targets Iran, America bears responsibility.”

The threat, according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, follows assurances by Washington sent through back-channels to Tehran that the United States would not support Israeli action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In return, the U.S. expects Tehran to refrain from attacking American military assets in the Persian Gulf. White House spokesman Jay Carney denied the report, saying it is “completely incorrect.”

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: AP)

But there’s no doubt the United States has routinely attempted to draw Israel away from a military option, and has largely employed a diplomatic strategy, working with Europe on inspections and negotiations occurring intermittently since 2003. According to a New York Times report Monday, the Obama administration is now planning to move forward with steps it hopes will curtail an Israeli attack while forcing Tehran to take the all-but-stalled negotiations over its nuclear program more seriously — meaning, more negotiations that take more time.

Yet Iran has repeatedly failed to accept diplomatic incentives offered in exchange for its suspension of enrichment activities, such as a five year buffer stock of fuel, and has scoffed at U.S. demonstrations of regional prowess, including a military drill planned for this month and the deployment of resources to protect shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.

Of course, only time will tell what action, if any, Israel will take against Iran. What is becoming clear, however, is that America’s status as Israel’s ally will most assuredly draw it into the fray. Whether the U.S. will retaliate for an attack on its bases, or at long last come to Israel’s aid after much current cautioning, Washington will be a player in the conflict that arises. Like it or not, the U.S. will own the hand dealt from Iran’s nuclear cards. It is better to proactively prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon than it is to continuously react to events in the Middle East that will undoubtedly shape the region for decades to come. Waiting for endless negotiations to conclude ensures the U.S. is dealt the worst hand.