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Opinion
Iran bomb 'not imminent'
Israeli rhetoric attempts to back Barack Obama into a corner, MJ Rosenberg says.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2010 13:16
The old Jerusalem jam [EPA]

In his book on Barack Obama's first year in office, Jonathan Alter wrotethat the president felt that he was "jammed by the Pentagon" to deepen the US involvement in Afghanistan. In other words, the military used leaks to sympathetic media, ostensibly predicting what Obama intended to do and why, to limit his options.

It worked. Obama said: "I can neither confirm nor deny that I was jammed by the Pentagon." Which, of course, means he was. And he did not like it.

The last few weeks have seen an intense push by the Israeli right and their neocon enablers in the US to essentially "jam" Obama into either attacking Iran or letting Israel do so.

The best example of this came from Jeffrey Goldberg who, in an Atlantic cover storyearlier this month, predicted that an Iranian nuclear bomb was probably imminent, and so was an Israeli attack (within the next twelve months) to prevent it.

The Goldberg piece - which openly relied on Binyamin Netanyahu as a source - was viewed in Washington as an effort to foreclose Obama's options. If sanctions failed (and the assumption was that they would), and if Iran was on the brink of a bomb, and if the US did not itself attack Iran, Israel would  have to do the job. And Obama would have to like it.

That is the old Jerusalem jam and Obama yesterday gave his response: "Hell no," although not in those exact words.

The White House issued a statement saying that Iran's nuclear programme has slowed down due to unforeseen problems and that it would take at least a year for Iran to be in a position to "break out" and develop a bomb. 

According to the New York Times,the administration believes their new assessment "has dimmed the prospect that Israel would preemptively strike against the country's nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats".

In other words, Israel should chill out.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said last weekthat Iran is ready for immediate talks over his nation's nuclear programme, and specifically over a nuclear swap deal under which Iran gives up its nuclear enrichment capacity in exchange for a steady supply of nuclear fuel (fuel incapable of being used for a weapon) for its research reactor.

"We promise to stop enriching uranium to 20 per cent if fuel supply is ensured," Ahmadinejad said. "We have the right to enrich uranium. Iran has never provoked a war nor craved for nuclear bombs."

Is he telling the truth? Who knows? But the US should find out. If we can negotiate an end to the Iran nuclear issue, we have to. The "bomb Iran" option has to be taken off the table.

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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