China Hand at American Footprints, on the meaning of a personnel fight in the Obama administration that you probably have never heard of:
Under the Bush administration, when the identity of U.S. and Israeli priorities was pretty much a given, regional confrontation was a welcome opportunity to advance Full Spectrum Dominance, and the idea of fighting two billion-dollar wars (plus for good measure a Global War on Terror) was considered to play to America’s economic and military strengths, AIPAC’s trashing of Middle East realists was not such a big deal.
But now we are in classic Walt-Mearsheimer territory, where the Obama administration’s intense desire to disengage from Iraq and fix Afghanistan requires at the very least a divergence from Israeli priorities and at worst (from Tel Aviv’s point of view) bilateral engagement with Iran.
Provocation, obstruction and even the active sabotage of U.S. Iran initiatives inflicts few costs on Israel. Israel’s political position in Washington is secure, and its claim to unstinting U.S. support is enhanced rather than damaged if it occupies an isolated position at the center of a dysfunctional Middle East filled with Muslim nations hostile both to it and the United States.
For the United States, it’s different. The Obama administration is trying to unwind from overextended positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It needs the help of regional powers that have real reach and positive interests inside Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid a catastrophic clusterf*ck that would damage U.S. interests and cripple the Obama presidency.
That means Iran. And Syria.
I anticipate unending efforts by Israel’s supporters in the U.S. Congress, media, and think tank commentariat to make the political cost of dealing with Iran unsupportable for the Obama administration. And with the economy stuck in a mile-deep rut, President Obama may in fact decide not to pick a fight over Iran and do little more than prolong the bloody standoffs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That is to say, the hardest of hard-line Israel hawks has a death grip on American foreign policy, and it looks very likely they will be able to stop Obama from changing our country's relationship with Iran and advance peace in the region. Because peace doesn't serve their interests in the short run.