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Opinion

Israel is not the threat, Mr. Obama. Iran is.

The Obama administration appears to be conducting a campaign of leaks to the media to stop Israel from attacking Tehran's nuclear program. It seems Obama fears an Israeli military strike more than he fears Iran achieving nuclear-weapons capability.

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Accordingly, stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the first place must be America’s top priority. The prolonged failures of diplomacy and sanctions have brought the United States to the point where, realistically, there are only two alternatives: Either Iran’s mullahs get the bomb, or someone stops them militarily beforehand. This is the dilemma that leads Obama to pressure Israel against even thinking about the second alternative.

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Three years of merciless private pressure against Israel having obviously failed to extract a commitment not to use force, the Obama administration looks to have determined two months ago to go public.

The first salvo was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s assertion that Israel might well strike Iran between April and June of this year. Nothing like letting the target know when to expect the attack.

Next came leaks to an author at Foreign Policy magazine’s Web site that Israel had secured basing rights from Azerbaijan, on Iran’s northern border, for possible use during a campaign against Tehran’s weapons program.

Launching strikes just a few hundred miles away from several likely targets – such as the Isfaham uranium conversion facility and the Natanz uranium enrichment plant – rather than having to attack from domestic airfields would give Israel both enormous tactical surprise and a critical leg up logistically.

One can assume with some confidence that Iran was not focused on the risk of Israeli bases in Azerbaijan, so hearing about it from US administration sources is a gift almost beyond measure. And one can also confidently assume that if that leak is not enough to make Israel bend its knee, more public revelations directed by the White House are only a matter of time.

Even now, Obama advisers could be revealing additional information to other governments behind closed doors. Perhaps we could ask Dmitri Medvedev.

Not only is this not the way to treat a close ally facing an existential challenge, it is directly contrary to America’s national interests. Israel is not the threat, Mr. President: Iran is.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as US ambassador to the United Nations in 2005-06.

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