A friend who occupied a senior American foreign-policy position e-mails with a very insightful comment:
The decision to drop [missile defense] for Poland and Czechoslovakia is a thinly disguised step toward the fulfillment of [Hillary Clinton’s] statement a couple months ago that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, the U.S. will “protect” the Gulf States and (silently) Israel by deterring and containing Iran. So this is a message that the U.S. will now accommodate both Russian and Iranian “sphere of influence” ambitions, including accepting Iran as a nuclear power.
If this is indeed the subtext of Obama’s missile-defense decision, it is problematic on its own terms. A U.S. containment and deterrence regime against Iran would depend for its effectiveness—that is, for its ability to deter both Iran and America’s allies from producing their own nuclear stockpiles or asserting policies outside the American umbrella—on the conviction among our allies that the United States will never go wobbly in protecting them. It would depend on the word and reputation of President Obama.
Yet the Poles and Czechs understand that they have now been thrown under the bus. Having witnessed the lesson of Eastern European missile defense, why should the Arabs or the Israelis choose to rely on a promise from Obama that the U.S. will “contain” Iran? They shouldn’t, and they won’t.