You Don't Have To Put On The Red Line

Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign to press the U.S. into a corner on Iran policy is heating up. Just as the Obama administration publicly pushed back—just a tad—Israeli officials came out and trashed them to Haaretz and Reuters.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected the notion that the U.S. would, upon Israeli demand, change or more emphatically restate its "red lines"—those Iranian actions (weapons production) that would spur a military attack. “We’re not setting deadlines," Clinton told Bloomberg radio this morning. "We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions than their words." And Iranian actions have not indicated a decision to build the bomb.

By the afternoon, Israeli officials were reacting badly in the pages of Haaretz, accusing the Obama administration of helping to speed up the Iranian nuclear program: "Such comments won't stop the Iranian centrifuges, but the other way around," an unnamed senior Israeli official told Barak Ravid. A similar anonymous statement was issued to Reuters.

But you know who else doesn't think anyone should be setting red lines on Iran? Israel's former top military officer, Lt. Gen. Dan Haloutz, a retired I.D.F. commander-in-chief told a J Street audience today: "I don’t believe in red line policies, because when you’re stating something at Time One, it might not be the same at Time Two"—in other words, circumstances change.

Haloutz's comments serve as exactly a repudiation of Netanyahu and co.'s current pressure on the Obama administration to shake up the delicate stasis between Iran and the West where "Iran does not cross any red lines, and we do not bomb." That actually does constitute an Obama administration red line. As White House spokesman Jay Carney said today, "The line is the president is committed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and he will use every tool in the arsenal of American power to achieve that goal."

More signals that Netanyahu is not calling for a "red line" so much as trying to shift it.