Amidst the many foreign policy stumbles–and occasional successes–of the Obama administration, there have been few as embarrassing as the failure in the ongoing Gaza conflict. No agency has been spared. The State Department has looked incompetent, with John Kerry’s failed ceasefire mission that alienated all relevant parties. The Pentagon provided weapons, but its intelligence assessments have been absurd. And the President, who took Israel to the UN Security Council, has fared worst of all, his promise to “have Israel’s back” debunked.
These failures might not matter much in the short term, since Hamas has rejected any ceasefire and Israel has persisted with its military operations in spite of international pressure. (More than ever, it has enjoyed the tacit support of Arab leaders, including the Palestinian Authority, which would be happy to see Hamas overthrown.)
However, the American failure in Gaza will have serious consequences for the confrontation with Iran. Israel no longer has any reason to trust U.S. guarantees of its security–not after the Obama administration insisted on a premature ceasefire that would have left the Hamas terror tunnels intact. In addition, Iran has no reason to fear American diplomatic or political pressures, since it is clear that Obama would eagerly accept peace at any price.
The likely result is that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran alone. That outcome has been described by analyst Kenneth Pollack as among the worst possible, since Israel has less capability than the U.S. to carry out such an attack. Still, Israelis would prefer to take the risk rather than face an Iranian nuclear weapon, which is more likely now that Obama has agreed to extend talks by four months. Israel feel they may have no choice.