Hagel: Israel Made Iran Negotiate

Hagel: Israel Made Iran Negotiate

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Bloomberg News’ Jeffrey Goldberg that Israeli threats of military action against Iran’s nuclear program helped U.S.-led sanctions in pushing the regime into talks. 

“…I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat. I think all of this, combined, probably brought the Iranians to where we are today,” Hagel said.

Goldberg notes that Hagel’s remarks contrast with those of Secretary of State John Kerry last week, who seemed to warn Israel against “fear tactics” that might scuttle negotiations, whose outcome Israel doubts. 

Yet there is something more troubling than reassuring about Hagel’s comment: Why is Israel the only party that is seen to apply military pressure to Iran–especially as President Barack Obama promised that was an option?

Iran fears a U.S. strike far more than an Israeli strike, Kenneth Pollack notes in his recent book, because of the far greater power of the U.S. military and the long distance between Israel and potential Iranian targets. So why is the U.S. leaving Israel to carry the moral, military, and diplomatic burden of a pre-emptive strike alone? If, as Hagel acknowledges, the threat of force is necessary for talks to succeed or even happen, where is Obama?