Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Iran is the issue, not "Palestine"

From The Australia/Israel review, January 2011 edition, by Dr. Uzi Rabi, Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University:

American diplomatic accounts of conversations with various Arab leaders, released this past month by WikiLeaks...[show that]regional and international leaders...are not focused primarily on Israel’s traditional struggle with the Arab states and the Palestinians. Rather...with the prospect of a nuclear Iran...

...Gulf leaders are quoted as urging the United States to attack Iran as quickly as possible. Saudi King Abdullah was particularly graphic, calling on Washington to “cut the head off of the snake.” Economic sanctions were preferable, he said, but “the use of military pressure against Iran should not be ruled out.” Two years ago, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal went as far as proposing an Arab-led military force to destroy Hezbollah in order to prevent an “Iranian takeover of Lebanon.” In December 2005, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid told US CENTCOM head, Gen. John Abizaid, that the Iranians had to be “dealt with before they do something tragic.” UAE military leaders were quoted as agreeing with the Americans that “President Ahmadinejad seemed unbalanced, crazy even.” Crown Prince bin Zayid called Ahmadinejad “Hitler” and pressed for an Israeli attack against Iran.

Earlier this year international media sources revealed that Israel and Saudi Arabia had engaged in secret talks, in which Saudi Arabia implied that it would turn a blind eye if Israel were to use the Saudi desert as a fly-over corridor to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Barring such an attack, nuclear Iran would become a regional superpower able to pressure Gulf states to line up behind it; it could serve as a source of inspiration and support for radical groups in the Gulf states and beyond; and a regional nuclear arms race would likely ensue.

...The WikiLeaks disclosures have widened the deep-rooted divisions between the Arab Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain (the Upper Gulf states), and Iran...

The WikiLeaks documents also shed light on the ongoing military and diplomatic cooperation between Iran and Turkey, suggesting the beginnings of a new axis in the region. ...the strains between Ankara and Washington reverberate throughout the documents and beyond. For example, one document states that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds eight private bank accounts in Switzerland...

While Israel has possessed a nuclear capability for over 40 years, WikiLeaks documents show that it is Iran’s nuclear ambitions that currently worry Arab states...

...There are relatively few references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the documents, and the issue has taken a back seat to nuclear Iran in recent Arab-American diplomatic discussions. The Arab states’ deep fear of Iran’s regional ambitions, which are a source of inspiration to its clients, Hamas and Hezbollah, outweighs their concern with the intractable, but not immediately threatening Israel-Palestinian issue.

...Arab leaders seem to view the Obama Administration’s insistent focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as coming at the expense of blocking Iran’s rising power. Together with what they view as administration impotence in affecting a change in Israeli policies, Arab states essentially confer a grade of “Poor” on Washington’s overall performance in the Middle East...
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