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Entries in US (2)


Iran's Nuclear Programme: The US Strategy

UPDATE 2100 GMT: Sometimes I wonder if a psychiatrist should just diagnose schizophrenia in the patient called the US Administration. Earlier today, we cited one "senior official" who said the US did not see an imminent threat from Tehran because of technical issues in its nuclear program. David Broder of The Washington Post, however, has a different "private" view from another official: "A senior administration official, dining with a small group of reporters two weeks ago, say that in his judgment, within a year to 18 months, after the diplomats have played out their hands at the United Nations, we will face a showdown with Iran."

Perhaps the two views can be reconciled with "no war now, maybe war later", but my impression is that yet again we have an Administration at war with itself over whether to talk to Iran or beat it over the head.


EA has learned that one of the Obama administration's most senior officials dealing with the Iran nuclear issue revealed the core of the US strategy at a private gathering in Washington this week.

Officially the US is still interested in the talks for "third-party enrichment" of Iran's uranium. However, Washington assessed that Iran has been able to enrich enough uranium since the autumn discussions that the amount being considered is superfluous. Washington, therefore, is less eager to pursue the deal.

(I find the statement somewhat curious, as the advantages of a deal are as much political --- getting an easing of US-Iran relations --- as they are technical. I sense there may be broader reasons for Washington's stall on talks.)

While pointing to Iran's enrichment of uranium, the official said Washington believes the "nuclear clock has slowed down significantly" because of technical difficulties in the enrichment program. (I suspect this may refer to the limitations on Iran's centrifuges.)

Therefore, the official said, "We have more time before the Israelis feel the need to take action."

(Some observers believe that comment indicates a tacit understanding in the administration that Israel will eventually reach the point of action and the U.S. will not stand in its way. My own reading is that the statement tries to take the heat out of the "Israeli dimension" by indicating there is no imminent threat to the Israelis from a militarised nuclear programme in Tehran.)

US and Israel: New Secret Talks?

According to a senior Israeli official talks with American officials have been conducted throughout the past week by phone and via the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The top Middle East policy specialist at the White House, Dan Shapiro, also arrived in Israel Wednesday on a secret visit.

So far, the Obama Administration has demanded that the Netanyahu Government drop construction in East Jerusalem for at least four months. However, neither the White House nor the Prime Minister's Office have officially announced the talks or even Shapiro's arrival in Israel, let alone the substance of the discussions.

A report in the Wall Street Journal says that Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the demand on East Jerusalem, but he did agree to other confidence-building gestures, such as allowing the opening of PA institutions in the eastern part of the city, transferring additional West Bank territory to Palestinian security control, and agreeing to discuss all the core issues of the conflict during proximity talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The Prime Minister's Bureau said on Thursday that Netanyahu Government had delivered over the weekend its most substantive response yet to the US request, confirming that Netanyahu has rejected the Obama administration's demands to freeze construction in East Jerusalem.

Responding to West Jerusalem’s official argument that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the heart of the problems in the region, Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, stated on Wednesday that progress toward Middle East peace would help thwart Iran's ambitions by preventing it from "cynically" using the conflict to divert attention from its nuclear program. He said:
One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

Advancing this peace would ... help prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to meet its obligations.

Seeking to resolve the conflict, Barack Obama sent a rare letter to Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. To gain the confidence of the Diaspora Jews and consolidate Washington’s position in Israel, Obama said:
I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my administration toward the Middle East.

All sides should understand that our commitment to Israel is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us.