Back on 14 March 2003 a TV interviewer asked Australian Prime Minister John Howard:
Prime Minister, can I put this proposition to you: you've made the choice, Australia will go to war with the United States with our without UN support.
Well Steve, we haven't taken that decision.
Within a week Australian forces joined with US and British forces in invading and destroying Iraq in a war that killed hundreds of thousands, if not over a million people, forced millions more to flee their homes, and destroyed most of Iraq’s infrastructure. And Howard expected the Australian people to believe that he hadn’t yet taken that decision.
On 16 March 2003 a journalist present at the Azores Conference asked President George W. Bush:
Regardless of whether the resolution goes up or down or gets withdrawn, it seems to me you're going to be facing a moment of truth. And given that you've already said you don't think there's very much chance Saddam Hussein is going to disarm, and given that you say you don't think there's very much chance he's going to go to go into exile, aren't we going to war?
Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work. And we sat and visited about this issue, about how best to spend our time between now and tomorrow. And as Prime Minister Blair said, we'll be working the phones and talking to our partners and talking to those who may now clearly understand the objective, and we'll see how it goes tomorrow.
Saddam Hussein can leave the country, if he's interested in peace. You see, the decision is his to make. And it's been his to make all along as to whether or not there's the use of the military. He got to decide whether he was going to disarm, and he didn't. He can decide whether he wants to leave the country. These are his decisions to make. And thus far he has made bad decisions.
At the same conference British Prime Minister Tony Blair said:
…now we have reached the point of decision, and we make a final appeal for there to be that strong, unified message on behalf of the international community that lays down a clear ultimatum to Saddam that authorises force if he continues to defy the will of the whole of the international community set out in 1441.
A few days later the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq.
Yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama. While sitting with Obama before the private discussions got under way, Netanyahu told reporters:
Israel has the right, the sovereign right, to make its own decisions.
By the end of the meeting both leaders had genuine smiles on their faces indicating that talks had gone well.
One can read into that whatever one wants with regard to the decisions that Netanyahu and Obama made during their meeting but it’s worth remembering that similar smiles were seen after the meeting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak last Wednesday.
I’m no expert in reading body language, but in all these post-meeting photos and videos they all looked pretty pally to me – unlike some of the meetings Netanyahu has had with Obama in the past.
If there is one thing that is certain regardless of what these leaders tell us otherwise, the decision, like the decision about attacking Iraq, has never been about ‘whether or not’ to attack Iran, but only about ‘when’.