From: From The Australian July 21, 2010, by Ehud Yaari, Lafer International Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Middle East Commentator for Channel 2 news in Israel, based on a talk he gave in Melbourne on July 12:
THE foreign policy team of US President Barack Obama is undertaking a reassessment of its policy all over the Middle East, including Israel ...and we can already detect the first products of this rethinking of policy.
The policy of keeping a distance from Israel, of picking fights with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led nowhere. There was a nominal freeze of construction in the settlements. The settlement freeze was not important in the first place and Mr Obama has decided, as you could tell during his latest meeting with Netanyahu, not to make it the central issue anymore.
Instead, we are going to see a policy that emphasises co-operation with Israel, understanding of Israel, working together, hand in hand, to bring the Palestinians to direct negotiations with Israel, instead of what is now in place -- proximity talks. Nobody talks about anything serious in proximity talks...
...Washington ...[has also] reached the conclusion that the US cannot adopt the option of containing a nuclear Iran.
The option of accepting a nuclear Iran, unwillingly of course, and then trying to contain it, was advocated by many important players on the American foreign policy scene. This option is now apparently off the table.
There is a change of policy not only in terms of sanctions, both at the UN Security Council and those unilateral sanctions now imposed by both the US, the EU and others; but also an understanding by the administration that in no way can Iran be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
...why have they changed their minds? Because of what the leaders of the Gulf states, including the king of Saudi Arabia, have been saying to Obama for some time now; "We cannot live with a nuclear Iran."
...In Iraq we had elections that constitute ...a major victory to George W. Bush. The good guys won. The two main secular lists, Iyad Allawi's Iraqia, which is a Sunni-Shia alliance backed by Saudi Arabia, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law list, both won in the elections ["secular"??? - are you kidding Yaari? - SL]...
...Mr Obama and some of the people around him are reaching the conclusion a policy that is based on engagement, on "unclenching the fist", "let's talk", and especially, "let's talk to enemies" ...doesn't really work. They got a no for an answer from the Syrians, they repeatedly get a no from the Iranians, they get slapped back all over the place. They are saying to themselves, "That's about as much as we are prepared to take." [If that's true, it's welcome news, and long overdue - SL]