US OFFICIALS are spot on in interpreting combination of Israeli military and diplomatic activity as “a lot of signalling going on”, no doubt aimed at Iran’s persistent drive to uranium enrichment. Israel’s latest has been serious war exercises that appear to have been simulated rehearsals for an imminent attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, confirming doubts we have expressed in this space time and again over the last half-year.
Going by unfolding developments, it seems a lot will become clear when Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad sit face to face in Paris next month. At the heart of the Golan Heights negotiation is whether or not Syria will willingly disengage with Iran and Lebanese client Hezbollah. Since Iran’s retaliation to any attack, whether from Israel or the United States, will be leveraging Hezbollah and similar groups across the region to hit back at enemy interests, sidelining guerilla outfits is crucial if Israel is to go ahead with the strike.
That Israel is willing to barter the captured Heights, something it has shied away from ever since the infamous Six Day War of ’67, is proof enough of how serious its designs are.
Clearly, Iran is not backing down from what it sees its legitimate right to produce nuclear energy under NPT mandate, despite three rounds of sanctions as well as serious threats of military strike. Therefore, with the ball in their court, and Bush’s term expiring very soon, Washington and Tel Aviv are not likely to sit idle as Iran replaces traditional Gulf power broker Saudi Arabia to take the director’s seat in the Middle East’s new drama.
Another factor crucially bearing down on the final go-ahead for military action must be the American election cycle. Republican candidate McCain is already on board the “bomb, bomb Iran” bandwagon, but if his ratings do not improve and Obama keeps the lead as Bush’s final months draw close, then it seems the outgoing president might well sanction the attack fearing potential US withdrawal from the region in case of a Democratic return to the White House.
No matter what American officials tell The New York Times, whatever Israel’s designs, a potential strike will not be unilateral. Washington’s frustration with Teheran is no secret, neither is the protection it provides to Israel for its regional antics.
Missing from the bigger picture is a unified Arab voice. It does not take a Middle East analyst to judge who will lose the most when push comes to shove. The Arabs need to make a very clear and very strong show of it. A nuclear Iran is in nobody’s interest, but military action and armed rehearsals with hundreds of aircraft will also not be tolerated.
Khaleej Times Online editorial 21 June 2008
Source: Khaleej Times