March 16, 2015 | Commentary on National Security and Defense, Iran, Israel

Obama's naive offer to Iran puts US, Israel and entire Middle East at risk

President Obama's strategy of negotiating with Iran could put the Jewish state at risk. And it could well make the world less safe for America, as well - but not in the way most think.

The administration is said to be working out an agreement that would let Tehran conduct a wide range of nuclear and ballistic missile activities, running right up to the line of becoming a nuclear power.

And, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in his recent speech to a joint session of Congress, the deal provides no assurance that Iran won't cross that line in the future.

That kind of pact leaves Israel facing a potential showdown with a nuclear-armed adversary. The most common concern conjured is that, as the first nuke comes off the assembly line, an apocalyptic mullah will fire it at Tel Aviv or hand it off to a terrorist group to do the job for him. But that's not the most likely scenario.

After all, Israel already has nukes of its own. The prospective deal will likely lead the Knesset to put its missile-defense program into overdrive.

This offense-defense mix is as good a deterrent as any to discourage Tehran from fulfilling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fondest wish: to "wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world."

But given the sanctions relief that Iran will demand to sign the pact and the non-diminished threat that it will one day field a nuclear force, this deal will still birth plenty of problems.

Once sanctions are lifted, the regime will be awash in cash. It will use those resources to further solidify its control, cracking down on dissidents until the potential for another Green Revolution (2009) is completely crushed. With a stranglehold on the domestic scene, the regime will then look outward with greater confidence.

The new revenues will also fuel a foreign policy that employs state-sponsored terrorism as a primary instrument. The Iranians are supporting Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthi rebels in Yemen as well as assorted militias in Iraq - all at the same time.

Before Obama granted partial sanctions relief to bribe Tehran into entering talks, the regime had a tough time priming the pump of discord in the Middle East and North Africa.

With the taps of foreign cash wide open, Iran will up its campaign for regional dominance. Meanwhile, the nations buffeted by Iran's maliciousness will be wondering when the regime might add a nuclear umbrella over its aggressive foreign policy. The most likely response to that concern is a response in kind from a number of regional states - including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey - joining the nuclear weapons club as well.

A witch's brew of foreign policies that underwrite armed insurgencies and terrorism paired with nuclear arms is a nightmare scenario for the region. It's hardly the kind of neighborhood where Israel - and any other democratic country - would feel more secure.

And that's bad news for the U.S. and other nations outside the Middle East. This part of the world remains vital to the rest of the world. If a regional war breaks out in the Middle East, there's zero likelihood the U.S. will be able to just stand on the sidelines and watch it burn.

Obama's bartering with Iran has numerous downsides. The sad part of it is that these problems were wholly predictable before the first negotiating session even started. The U.S. had no reason to hope that Iran would sign a deal permanently signing away its nuclear dreams. From the very start, all the president has done is put Israel, the U.S., and our friends and allies in the region at risk.

 - James Jay Carafano is vice president of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies for The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Originally distributed by the Tribune Content Agency