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Engagement with Iran (Postscript): Did US Tell Israeli General to Take a Hike?

Related Post: Engagement with Iran - A Hopeful US Approach
Related Post: Engagement - And There's Hope on the Iranian Side As Well....

ashkenazi2A story from Israel's YNet News on Monday raises the prospect of a Washington rebuff to Israel on how to approach Iran.

The article begins with a statement of the Israeli hopes for a hard line towards Tehran: "IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi (pictured), who is on an official visit to the United States, told his American colleagues Monday that the Iranian threat could still be handled via sanctions, but stressed that an Israeli military strike was a "serious" option."

It soon becomes clear, however, that Ashkenazi was told to put his airplanes away by US National Security Advisor James Jones, Dennis Ross, the State Department special advisor on Iran, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "[Ashkenazi] did note that economic sanctions on Iran remain the preferable option at this time."

Even more interesting is this note, which I don't think was picked up in the American press: "Later Monday evening, Ashkenazi decided to cut his visit to the US short, in order to attend the government's meeting Tuesday on the prisoner exchange deal meant to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit."

Yeah, right. Ashkenazi is far from a central figure in the political talks with Hamas on Shalit. What is more likely is that, having originally scheduled a five-day stay in the US, the General saw that Tel Aviv's agenda was going nowhere. That interpretation is given even more substance by this denial, which still raises a smile:
IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu said that "the decision stemmed from his desire to attend meetings regarding Shalit's retrieval, but it is not to be taken as a reflection of any possible outcome of the negotiations."

Washington's rejection of Ashkenazi's approach is solely on the military side of the Iran question. What remains to be seen is whether, after Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross floated the idea of a harder diplomatic line with Iran during the Clinton wide ride in the Middle East earlier this month, others in the Administration --- possibly eclipsing Clinton and Ross --- are also going to rebuff Tel Aviv's insistence on tougher economic sanctions.

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    EA WorldView - Archives: March 2009 - Engagement with Iran (Postscript): Did US Tell Israeli General to Take a Hike?

Reader Comments (2)

Israel will have to take matters into its own hands. I don't think the Israelis will go quietly into the night. They now know that there is no end to Obama's naivete. Israel won't fall victim to a failed appeasement policy if it can help it.

March 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Dave is right, if Israel sees a threat it will strike and it will be well within its right's to do so Obama has noble intentions but is obviously misguided in thinking that he can deal with terrorists and terrorist sympathizers without the basic precondition of them renouncing violence. What happens if Negotiations break down? Does build its bomb and begin targeting American interests. We will never have the upper hand until we can make sure that Iran's nuclear option is disabled. I still think the best think to do is a limited air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities and then a Bay of Pigs style campaign (with better results hopefully)

March 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Hunter

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