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U.S. Unshackles Israel Against Iran

American Vice President Biden Signals Israel Is On Her Own

More Signals That 'Moderate' Arab States Mobilizing Against Iran

Ambassador Oren: 'Nuclear Armed Iran Could Annihilate Israel In Seconds!'

U.S. Vice president Joe Biden has done it again; several months ago he warned Israel against attacking Iran's nuclear installations, now he has said it is Israel's sovereign decision. What is behind America's shifting ground on one of the gravest dangers on the international agenda? And how and why are ' moderate' Arab states indicating they are more worried about Iran than Israel? IsraCast assesses recent changes that go far beyond diplomatic nuances.

In a sudden policy shift, the U.S. has freed the shackles it imposed on Israel, against attacking Iran's nuclear installations - that is how Vice President's latest clarification is being viewed in Jerusalem. Several months ago, Biden warned: 'Israel would be ill-advised' to strike Iran. Now in Iraq, the American official stated: 'If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different from the one pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice'.

In other words, Biden has also signaled that Israel is now on her own in facing Iran

At the same time, Biden stressed the Obama Administration was still  committed to conducting a nuclear dialogue with the Iranian government. While it is not an actual green light for Israel, the former veiled threat has now been lifted. However, America will play no part if the Israelis do decide to try and eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. In other words, Biden has also signaled that Israel is now on her own in facing Iran. Moreover, by disassociating herself from any future Israeli attack, America is obviously trying to avoid Iranian retaliatory attacks.

Dick Cheney and Joe Biden

This is not the first time the U.S. has adopted the position that the Iranian nuclear danger is first and foremost an Israeli headache. In the former Bush administration, Vice President Richard Cheney warned several times that if severe sanctions were not imposed on Iran who could tell what the Israelis might do. This while President Bush and Secretary of State Rice paid lip service to preventing Iran from acquiring the bomb.

When taking office President Barack Obama, on the advice of several senior U.S. policy experts, opted for the diplomatic approach to defusing the Iranian nuclear menace. Obama sent a secret envoy to Jerusalem (rumored to be CIA Director Leon Panetta) warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to 'surprise' the U.S. with a military strike on Iran.

What has brought about this switch in the White House? There appear to be a number of factors. If the Obama Administration truly felt there was a fair chance of success for the nuclear dialogue, although the Iranians have repeatedly declared they will brook no restrictions on their nuclear program for 'peaceful purposes', the fetters on Israel would not have been lifted. The regime's brutal suppression of peaceful Iranian protesters has shattered any Obama illusions.

Secondly, Washington has more than its hands full in coping with the more volatile nuclear peril from North Korea. And if this were not not enough, the U.S-lead war in Afghanistan, the exit strategy in Iraq and the simmering situation in Pakistan have put more than enough on Obama's plate. Joe Biden got more than even he envisaged when, during the U.S. election  campaign, he predicted the new president would be sorely tested during his first six months in office.

The Obama Administration seems to be saying that it foresees no viable solution for Iran

While struggling to cope with foreign policy challenges elsewhere, the Obama Administration seems to be saying that it foresees no viable solution for Iran; Tehran could be counted upon to string along the U.S. in a nuclear dialogue, so ease up on the Israelis and see what happens. Moreover, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen has repeatedly warned that America's military is now overextended and the last thing he needs is the opening of another front against Iran. 

Regional Picture

While this sudden shift has occurred in Washington, a more gradual trend has been developing in the Arab world against non-Arab Iran. This is reflected in various ways. The Sunday Times of London has reported that Mossad Director Meir Dagan has conducted clandestine contacts with Saudi officials on the Iranian nuclear threat. Moreover, Saudi Arabia agreed to turn a blind eye if Israeli jets flew through her airspace to reach Iran. The report has been vehemently denied by both Riyadh and Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Whether true or not, the very notion illustrates that moderate Arab states are far more worried about Iran than they are about Israel. What has been confirmed is that a month ago an Israeli sub, that foreign reports say can be armed with nuclear missiles, sailed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Red Sea. This raised speculation that the Israel Navy might also have its eye on reaching the Persian Gulf, opening a new avenue of attack against Iran.

Since last November, after a wide-scale subversive  network organized by Iranian-backed Hezbollah was smashed inside Egypt, Cairo and Jerusalem have strengthened their security cooperation in various areas. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was reportedly tipped off by a foreign intelligence source, was infuriated over the Iranian-backed subversion inside his country. Tehran, a fierce rival of Cairo, is known to support the radical Muslim Brotherhood which is dedicated to toppling the Mubarak regime. One Israeli commentator has said most of the Sunni Arab states apply the term of the 'Great Satan' to Shiite Iran and not, as Iran does, to the U.S. In fact, Egypt, Jordan and most of the Gulf states were said to be concerned that the U.S. attempt to conduct a nuclear dialogue would result in the American appeasement of the Ayatollahs. 

As for Israeli reaction, leaders have long said a diplomatic solution is the preferred option to the Iranian nuclear threat. While the Iranian nuclear clock keeps ticking, and against the backdrop of Obama's proposal to negotiate with Tehran, Jerusalem has been calling for stiffer sanctions. On this score as well, the prospects appear to be slim to non-existent. On the eve of Obama's visit to Moscow, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev has rejected harsher sanctions contending this would serve to exacerbate the situation and actually spur Iran to accelerate its nuclear program.

'The Iranians could do in a second what they deny Hitler did when he murdered six million Jews!'

With no end in sight to the dictatorial Iranian rule, as predicted at the outset by Meir Dagan, Israel continues to monitor developments. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is having another try at resolving the settlement building dispute with U.S. diplomat George Mitchell. Israel is trying to clear up such 'marginal issues' in order to focus international attention on Iran. But what the specter of a nuclear armed Iran means to the Jewish state was described in stark terms by Dr. Michael Oren, the new ambassador to Washington. Speaking in Aspen Colorado, Ambassador Oren warned: 'The Iranians could do in a second what they deny Hitler did when he murdered six million Jews!'

David Essing

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