Saturday, February 7, 2009


Alistair Lyon – Reuters January 6, 2009

Israel will go along with U.S. President Barack Obama's Iran diplomacy, but try to shorten the deadline for results by signaling its willingness to attack Iranian nuclear sites if need be.

Israel votes on Tuesday and its next prime minister – the front-runner is rightwinger Benjamin Netanyahu – is likely to go to Washington within a few months and press Obama to stick to his campaign promise not to let Iran develop an atomic bomb.

Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the visit would entail a "strategic conversation" with Obama.

"It need not be conclusive or threatening, but it will be very serious and ... scare the daylights out of the president that unless the international community mobilizes to address the situation, the Israelis will," Miller said.

Unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has offered direct talks with Tehran. But he has yet to define his policy, which officials say is under review. He has spoken of tougher sanctions if needed and has not excluded military action.

Israelis fret that diplomatic overtures will only give Iran more time to perfect its uranium enrichment program -- which the Iranians say is meant to produce electricity, not bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found no proof of Iranian nuclear bomb-making. But the West sees as sinister Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium -- an activity it is permitted as a Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called this week for a "strategic agreement" with Washington to ensure that any talks with the Iranians "should be kept short and followed by harsh sanctions and readiness to take action."


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