We do not know the outcome to this hypothetical debate. We do not yet know that negotiations with Iran will fail; although it seems that the debate within the administration seems to be hardening against the idea of Iran retaining any enrichment capacity. If this does become the administration’s position, then failure of negotiations is assured. Iran will not abjure its right to a nuclear fuel cycle for power generation – even at the risk of war. This is the essence of the dilemma: if sanctions seem likely to lead to nothing more than Republican sniping and taunts of weakness, how does the president display “toughness” on Iran – against the backdrop of withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and abstention on the Israeli-Palestinian political process?
It is clear that Israel must be reading the region in the same fashion. Israelis are acutely sensitive to US politics, and the Israeli media already express understanding for the acute dilemma that will face the US president if sanctions do not succeed in persuading Iran to abandon all enrichment (the Israeli objective). How might Israel see the way to help President Barack Obama resolve this dilemma – given the improbability that Israel will be given any “green light” to attack Iran directly, with all the consequences that such military action might entail for US interests in the region?