Does Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu think the West is taking decisive action to stop Iran from getting the Bomb, or does he think the West is fiddling while Tel Aviv runs the rising risk of burning? That’s the Big Question as tensions continue to mount in the epicenter this week. Iran is making new threats to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil shipments, just days after test-firing missiles over the Strait. The U.S., Britain and France are sending additional naval forces into the Gulf. The European Union is taking new steps to impose an oil embargo on Iran. The U.S. is taking steps to sanction Iran’s third largest bank, though dragging its feet on actually sanctioning Iran’s Central Bank. Adding to the regional tensions, Russia is lashing out at the EU and selling $550 million worth of arms to one of Iran’s key regional allies. Will such Western moves be enough to stop Iran from building an arsenal of nuclear weapons? Personally, I’m not convinced. Such moves would have been good a few years ago. Now they strike me as too little too late, especially after the Obama White House disastrous decision recently to cancel joint military exercises with Israel for fear of being “too provocative” towards Iran. But it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what Netanyahu thinks. If he decides the West isn’t doing enough and Iran is going to get the Bomb, then he is going to hit Iran hard, soon, and without warning.
In that context, it’s worth noting a speech Netanyahu gave Tuesday warning his nation that the world has not internalized the lessons of the Holocaust. “Speaking at the Knesset just days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), Netanyahu reasoned that the Jewish people must not put their fate in the hands of the international community,” reported the Jerusalem Post. “Posing a rhetorical question, Netanyahu asked, ‘How does the world react to the calls for genocide against the Jews today? Seventy years after the shoa [Holocaust], Iran is calling for us to be wiped off the map, Hezbollah is calling for our extinction, as are many in Hamas….The Jerusalem Mufti [Sheikh Muhammad Hussein] called on Sunday for Jews to be killed wherever they are…echoing his predecessor Haj Amin Al Husseini, who actively helped Hitler and Eichman,’ he said. ‘I do not hear the international community condemning this. I hear them condemning buildings in the West Bank. But I don’t hear them condemning this incitement,’ said Netanyahu.”
Could Netanyahu be signaling that his patience — and that of the Israeli government and military — is running out?
Worth noting: “Two Iranian lawmakers on Monday stepped up threats their country would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s crude flows, in retaliation for oil sanctions on Tehran,” reports Haaretz. “The warnings came as EU nations agreed in Brussels on an oil embargo against Iran as part of sanctions over the country’s controversial nuclear program. The measure includes an immediate embargo on new contracts for Iranian crude and petroleum products while existing ones will be allowed to run until July. Iran has repeatedly warned it would choke off the strait if sanctions affect its oil sales, and two lawmakers ratcheted up the rhetoric on Monday….For its part, the United States has enacted, but not yet put into force, sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and, by extension, the country’s ability to be paid for its oil. Some 80 percent of Iran’s oil revenue comes from exports and any measures or sanctions taken that affect its ability to export oil could hit hard at its economy. With about 4 million barrels per day, Iran is the second largest producer in OPEC.”
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