Michael Dobbs: Would JFK Favor a 'Red Line' with Iran?





Michael Dobbs is a prize-winning foreign correspondent and author. Currently serving as a Goldfarb fellow at the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dobbs is following legal proceedings in The Hague.

Earlier this week, I received a call from the Washington Post's political fact checker, Glenn Kessler, asking about a Benjamin Netanyahu quote relating to the Cuban missile crisis. The Israeli prime minister was citing President Kennedy's handling of the Soviet missile threat from Cuba to bolster his demands for a clear "red line" before Iran. Netanyahu would like the Obama administration to tell the Iranians that the United States will take military action if they seem likely to acquire sufficient weapons-grade plutonium to make a nuclear bomb.

"President Kennedy put a red line before the Soviets in the Cuban missile crisis," Netanyahu told CNN on September 16. "He was criticized for it, but it actually pushed the world back from conflict and maybe purchased decades of peace."

In my reply to Kessler, I noted that "everybody quotes JFK when it is in their interest."  President George W. Bush cited Kennedy's actions during the missile crisis approvingly back in 2002, as part of his justification for going to war with Iraq. But we should be wary of simplistic historical parallels, in both the Iraq and Iran cases....



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