It is widely believed that the game of chess traces its origins to 6th century northwestern India. At that time it was named chaturanga, Sanskrit for four divisions (of the military). But if chess was invented in India, to a great extent it had its first major evolution in Persia, where pieces were added and new rules about movement of those pieces were introduced.
The game, then called shatranj, was widely played. It required foresight, skill, cunning, strategic thought, intelligence and ruthlessness in order to outwit an opponent and secure a victory. The Persians produced masters of the game so great that some of their “scenarios” (the equivalent of modern day chess brain teasers), baffled players for a thousand years.
Hundreds of years later, under the rule of Christendom in Europe, the game further evolved with changes to pieces and rules resulting in its current form. Each modern of game of chess now follows three familiar phases: an opening, a middle game, and an endgame.
Today the West finds itself at the endgame in a global chess match against the Iranian regime in its race to acquire nuclear weapons.
And the West is being outmaneuvered, largely due to America making the wrong decisions on the international chessboard at the most critical moments.
So how did the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, reach such a dire state of affairs where it seems impotent to halt Iran’s advance towards nuclear arms?
The events of the last week are telling.
For instance, last Friday, a flurry of events seemed to signal that policy on Iran was moving in the right direction.
First, Canada’s conservative government, in a bold move, closed its embassy in Tehran and gave Iranian diplomats five days to leave Canada. Citing the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, its flaunting of UN resolutions, incitement to genocide, state sponsorship of terrorism, and violation of human rights, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called Iran, “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham expressed their opinions that sanctions were not being effective in stopping Iran’s drive towards nuclear weapons. Senator Lieberman said, “We have applied very tough economic sanctions on Iran and they have clearly affected the economy of Iran–but they have not affected the nuclear program on iota.”
Senator Graham went further saying that, “If the Iranians believed that there’s a credible threat of massive attack by the United States to disrupt their nuclear program and their regime’s survivability, they will start thinking differently.”
Even the Washington Post’s editorial board–which is not known for having a conservative bent–suggested strongly that U.S. President Barack Obama issue clear “red lines” which if crossed would trigger an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.
It seemed that the West had come to its senses in realizing that the endless procession of conferences with Iran in Baghdad, Moscow and Ankara yielded nothing, save for buying the Iranians more time to develop their nuclear program. It was even recognized that sanctions are not stopping Iran. Despite the Iranian rial losing a great deal of its value, only the Iranian people are suffering; the Iranian regime continues its nuclear work unabated.
Ostensibly the West was moving to present a new and united front against Iran in light of clear and convincing evidence that sanctions and conferences are not stopping its progression towards a nuclear bomb.
In yet another sign of a possible shift towards greater unification on the West’s part, only last week The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was weighing the idea of laying down some red lines of its own, that if crossed by Iran, would precipitate U.S. military action. Netanyahu had even endorsed the idea saying, “The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we’ll have conflict.”
And then came Sunday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement saying that the U.S. will not set any deadlines for Iran and that it still considers negotiations and sanctions the best way to stop it from developing nuclear weapons.
In other words, the Obama administration is going to continue the same approach it has been following even though time and time again that approach has proven to be a dismal failure.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon, in a public and blistering tirade against Clinton for her refusal to set any red lines for military action to halt Iran, said her statement, “is a slap in the face [for Israel], the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.” He continued, “Instead of [the US] standing steadfastly at our side, the secretary’s comments only serve to embolden the Iranians and likely hasten their weapons program. We expect more from our American friends, who have pledged close cooperation in combating this radical threat to the free world.”
Although it is debatable as to whether Danon should have conveyed his thoughts so publicly and fervently to Obama administration officials, the substance of what he said is right on the mark. The Iranians will be emboldened by the administration’s stance. As far as they are concerned, the rules of the game haven’t changed and it is back to business as usual: the West calling for more conferences, continuing to try to impose feeble sanctions, and Iran gaining more time to march towards nuclear arms with no obstacles in sight.
And all the while Obama holds Israel back from striking Iran, begging for more time for sanctions to work. Netanyahu’s frustration at the absurdity of not even taking a firm stance against Iran and at least setting out red lines as a further deterrent beyond failing sanctions came through in his latest statement:
“The world tells Israel to wait because there is still time. And I ask: Wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel. If Iran knows that there is no red line or deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it is doing today, i.e., continuing to work unhindered toward achieving a nuclear weapon.”
Sensing that time is of the essence, Netanyahu, who will be in New York City shortly to address the U.N., requested a meeting with the president. Netanyahu even offered to travel to Washington, D.C. to ensure that the meeting will take place.
But Obama, it seems, can’t find the time to meet Netanyahu to discuss vital issues of national security, war and peace, or acquisition of nuclear weapons by one of the world’s most dangerous regimes because of his tight campaign schedule. Amid Obama’s refusal to meet Netanyahu comes word from the U.N. that it has new intelligence indicating that Iran is moving towards further nuclear weapons capability.
So as Iran hurtles toward acquisition of nuclear arms, Obama has a clear choice before him. He can continue making the wrong decisions and repeat his prior mistakes of futile conferences and sanctions and distancing himself from his allies, or he can show resolve by leading the West and firmly drawing a line in the sand and give the Iranians real pause about moving forward with their nuclear plans.
Given Obama’s behavior and record regarding Iran, it seems highly improbable that he will make the correct move and delineate clear red lines that Iran dare not cross. Accordingly, Israel may have to act alone in order to stave off what appears to be an increasingly likely nuclear checkmate.