Israel and Iran’s War of Words Increasingly Troubling

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Not (entirely) on the same page.
Not (entirely) on the same page. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As protests erupt across the Muslim world and Syria's civil war continues to escalate out of control, yet another crisis threatens to explode in the Middle East: A much-speculated-about Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press today, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his call for the setting of "red lines" when it comes to Iran. (If Netanyahu got his way, the crossing of said lines would prompt military action by the United States and Israel's other Western allies.)  "You have to place that red line before them now, before it's too late," he said. In an effort to force President Obama into adopting a more hawkish position, Netanyahu compared the "unbelievable fanaticism" of Iran's leadership with the "fanaticism that you see storming [United States] embassies today." He added, "You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?" 

Netanyahu even tried out a football metaphor to argue his case:

You know, they’re in the last 20 yards, and you can’t let them cross that goal line. You can’t let them score a touchdown, because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences for the peace and security of us all, of the world really.

Meanwhile, speaking at a rare news conference in Tehran, Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Israel that an attack on Iran would likely lead to a blockade the Straits of Hormuz — through which over a third of the world's oil supply flows — not to mention the country's exit from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the targeting of U.S. military based "within the range of the Guards' missiles." And Israel itself, Jafari reminded Netanyahu (as if he needs reminding) is within range of Iranian missiles. "Nothing of Israel will be left, considering its size," he said, according to the AFP. "I do not think any part of Israel will be untouched given our missile capabilities."

For its part, the United States government continues to stick with a wait-and-see approach with a dose of Israeli solidarity. Appearing after Netanyahu on Meet the Press, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice cautioned that "there is time and space for the pressure we are mounting," while adding that, "President Obama has been absolutely clear, and on this there is absolutely no daylight between the United States and Israel, that we will do what it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We are not at that stage yet."

In fact, Obama spoke with Netanyahu by phone just this past Tuesday, and United States and Israeli officials are in constant communication, according to Rice. In the meantime, the United States, along with Great Britain and dozens of other nations, are massing ships in a giant armada off the Straits of Hormuz for the largest war games ever conducted in the region. One of the main simulated missions, according to The Telegraph: destroy Iran's air force, naval assets, and coastal missile batteries.