Clinton: Israel must be patient on Iran Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday implicitly urged Israel to give US policy on Iran's nuclear ambitions a chance to work.
Gates visit to Israel marks US decision to turn up military heat on Iran
DEBKAfile Special Report
July 26, 2009, 10:00 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israeli missile boats in Suez Canal July 2009
DEBKAfile's military and Washington sources report that President Barack Obama is getting set for some military arm-twisting against Iran spearheaded by Israel. This will be the main subject of defense secretary Robert Gates talks in Israel Tuesday, July 28 and was presaged by a strong message secretary of state Hillary Clinton broadcast to Tehran Sunday, July 28, over NBC: "… if you're pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, or projecting your power, we are not going to let that happen," she said. "Your pursuit is futile. We believe as a matter of policy it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons."
Her statement was the clearest US warning to Iran of what is in store if it forges ahead with its military nuclear program..
Earlier this week, Clinton said in Thailand that the US would extend a "defense umbrella" over the Arab Gulf nations against an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Military and verbal pressure against Iran is one component of Obama's new Middle East approach; a second focuses on pulling Syria and its president Bashar Assad away from their tight bonds with Tehran. This goal brought Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell to Damascus for the second time this month Sunday, July 26.
Before traveling to Israel in the afternoon, Mitchell stated that Barack Obama was "determined to facilitate a truly comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace" that includes the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon and normal relations with the nations of the region. "If we are to succeed," he said, "we will need Arabs and Israelis alike to work with us. We will welcome the full cooperation of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic in this historic endeavor."
Mitchell's words opened the door for Syria to opt for cooperation with Washington instead of Tehran.
DEBKAfile's sources add that Gates on Tuesday - followed by national security adviser James Jones and Middle East adviser Dennis Ross Wednesday - are to turn over with Israeli leaders plans for harassing Tehran.
The passage earlier this month of Israeli nuclear-capable submarines escorted by missile boats through between the Mediterranean and Red Seas through the Suez Canal was a mark of US-Israeli cooperation in the pursuit of Washington's tough new posture for deterring Iran's nuclear drive.
Obama backs off Mid East peace plan and confrontation with Israel
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
July 25, 2009, 1:23 PM (GMT+02:00)
Binyamin Netanyahu - slow to respond
A flock of US presidential emissaries descends on Israel this week. DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that their briefs reflect US president Barack Obama's new caution on his next Middle East steps. He has backed away from formulating a new Middle East plan which he was widely reported as preparing to unveil at the end of July and shied away from a showdown with Israel on such touchy issues as settlement expansion.
The coming week's arrivals, for which prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepared by convening his kitchen cabinet of six ministers Friday, will be led by defense secretary Robert Gates followed by national security adviser James Jones and presidential adviser Dennis Ross. Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is first stopping off in Damascus Saturday, July 25, for talks set up by his Syrian deskman Fred Hof.
The visitors to Israel will be accompanied by a large party of CIA and military high-ups.
Our sources report that Obama began reassessing his Middle East initiatives last month. To complete this turnabout, he is awaiting a response from prime minister Netanyahu, who is drawing much criticism in Washington for being slow to respond. The Israeli government has allowed the public and local media columnists to believe that a crisis in US-Israel relations is ongoing and that the Obama's US administration would be the first to try and impose a peace settlement on Israel.
His envoys have tried to dispel this impression by informing Israeli leaders that the US president was not about to launch any new Middle East peace initiatives. Obama has furthermore watered down his demand for a total freeze on settlement construction and is willing to countenance expansion for accommodating natural growth. However, here too, the Israeli government is accused of holding back the figures and refusing to specify whether it covers 400 or 4,000 building starts.
Some White House sources complain that only after Netanyahu met Obama in the White House on May 18 did he affirm his acceptance of Palestinian statehood in four public statements. Had he said "two-state solution" out loud at that meeting, the relationship would have got off on a friendly footing from the start instead of appearing to go downhill.
DEBKAfile's Washington sources add that Mitchell is visiting Damascus for the second time in a month to explore the resumption of Syrian-Israel talks. The White House now appreciates that the peace process with the Palestinians is going nowhere any time soon. A high-ranking US official told our sources that this track will remain in deadlock for as long as Arab rulers like Saudi King Abdullah reject any gestures towards Israel in return for concessions and the Fatah-Hamas feud continues to keep the West Bank Gaza Strip apart under separate administrations.
President Obama has accordingly decided "to avoid a situation where he gets nothing from Arab leaders and is at odds with the Jews." This will more easily permit common ground to be broached on the Iranian nuclear issue.
UN troops can stop Israeli cows, but not Lebanese infiltrators They may do little to stop either Lebanese civilians or terrorists from infiltrating northern Israel, but the UN troops that make up the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon are going out of their way to make sure Israeli cows stop entering Lebanon. A Lebanese website reported at the weekend that UNIFIL has offered to build a fence around a pond that sits just over the border and which Israeli cows often visit to get a drink while grazing in nearby Israeli fields. Israelis were somewhat surprised by the story, considering that the same UNIFIL troops did absolutely nothing last week to stop 15 Lebanese civilians from crossing into northern Israel, where they planted Lebanese and Hizballah flags. UNIFIL has also come under heavy criticism in Israel for failing to prevent the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began when a Hizballah force entered northern Israel and ambushed an Israeli army patrol, all within view of UNIFIL lookouts.
Right-wing rally planned in Jerusalem To protest the United States' demand for a settlement freeze and to take a stand in favor of a unified Jerusalem, right-wing activists and settler leaders plan to rally Monday evening in Paris Square on the capital's Rehov Agron. The rally, which will be held under the banner "Yes to Israeli Independence, No to American Demands," is timed to coincide with a visit by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who arrived in the country on Sunday. Earlier in the day, activists plan to head to the hilltops in Judea and Samaria to begin construction on 11 new outpost sites. The two-day event, organized by the Land of Israel Faithful, is the latest in a two-year campaign to expand Jewish holdings in Judea and Samaria. Activists have already broken ground at eight outpost sites in the past two years. The new sites will be located next to the settlements of Elon Moreh, Alon Shvut, Har Bracha, Kiryat Arba, Avnei Hefetz and the Adei Ad outpost. Activists have managed to maintain a foothold in these sites, but have not been able to develop them into full-fledged outposts