Monday, March 09, 2009

Iran Looms

From The New York Times, March 5, 2009, by MARK LANDLER:

...After three days of meetings in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, Mrs. Clinton said she was struck by the depth of fear about Iran and the extent to which officials say it meddles in their affairs.

“There is a great deal of concern about Iran from this whole region,” she said to reporters on Wednesday. “It is clear Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all of these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it is Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies.”

Mrs. Clinton specifically mentioned the Palestinians, saying that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority ....

...Later, as Mrs. Clinton flew to Europe for meetings at NATO and with the Russian foreign minister, she again invoked Iran, saying the threat of a missile strike by Iran could be a basis for cooperation between the United States and Russia on the contentious issue of missile defense...

...Mrs. Clinton did not comment on a letter President Obama sent to Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, in which Mr. Obama noted that the United States would not need to deploy missile interceptors in Eastern Europe if Russia joined in a successful effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear warheads and long-range missiles.

But she said she hoped to put negotiations with Russia on missile defense “on a serious track.” Russia, she said, is beginning to accept the argument that the missile defense system is not intended to harm Russia, but to protect it and Europe from a host of threatening neighbors...

...Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish words seemed intended to keep Iran on the defensive while the Obama administration completed its review of Iran policy. In a meeting with an Arab foreign minister in Egypt on Monday, Mrs. Clinton expressed skepticism that Iran would respond positively to the administration’s offer of direct negotiations.

Her announcement on Tuesday that the United States would send envoys to Syria might also have been intended, in part, to put pressure on Iran. Syria is viewed by many experts as a conduit for Iranian influence in the region. While Mrs. Clinton declined to elaborate on the mission, she said, “We believe that there is an opportunity for Syria to play a constructive role, if it chooses to do so.”

...When she was asked in Jerusalem about the Gaza border crossings, Mrs. Clinton said Israel faced a dilemma in loosening its controls, since Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israeli towns....

Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Taghreed El-Khodary from Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris.
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