Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is The US Using Israel To Pull China's Leg?

In an article for Foreign Policy, Steven A. Cook--a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations--writes that when all is said and done: Israel is not going to attack Iran to stop its nuclear program.

According to Cook:
A recent poll designed to gauge prevailing Israeli views of the United States demonstrated that large majorities had strong positive views of the United States and regarded Washington as a staunch ally. Yet, the April poll, conducted for the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University and the Anti-Defamation League by the Israeli firm Maagar Mochot, found that 49.5 percent of Israelis believed that Israel should defy the United States on Iran, but at the same time 91 percent said that the relationship with the United States is vital to Israel's security.

There is no way of knowing for sure what the Israelis will do, but the Maagar Mochot study holds some clues. Iran and its nuclear program remain a threat to Israel, and nearly half of all Israelis would choose to bomb Iran even if the Obama administration did not approve. It seems like an opportune moment for Israel's leaders to order up the airstrikes. Yet, observers need to ask why the Israelis are waiting. If the Iranians actually managed to build a nuclear weapon, that would be a major and alarming step, but the Israelis have long maintained that the mere fact that the Iranians are enriching uranium is a grave danger. Under these circumstances, Israel's patience -- despite the tough rhetoric -- suggests that Israeli leaders do not believe that the political environment is ripe to go it alone. The historical record, combined with the 91 percent of Israelis who believe the relationship between Israel and the United States is "vital," and the slightly more than half of Israeli Jews who remain reluctant to defy the United States, strongly implies that when push comes to shove, Jerusalem will defer to Washington. As a result, all those indicators portending an Israeli attack -- the strike against Syria in September 2007, the large air exercises over the Mediterranean in the summer of 2008, and the recent countrywide drills that the IDF's Home Front Command conducted -- might actually indicate that Israel is trying to figure out how to deter Iran, rather than attack it. An Israeli strike does not seem to be in the cards, so the finance guys in New York can relax for now. They can be sure, however, that if Israel decides to act, they will not hear about it first on CNBC. [emphasis added]
Yet it appears that in contrast to Cook's theory of how the US is holding Israel back from attacking Iran, there does seem to be at least one country that is pretty sure that Israel is ready to do just that: the US.

According to The Washington Post, the US used the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran--and the chaos that would result--in order to convince China to support a condemnation of Iran for flouting UN resolutions regarding its development of nuclear power:
Two weeks before President Obama visited China, two senior White House officials traveled to Beijing on a "special mission" to try to persuade China to pressure Iran to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program.

If Beijing did not help the United States on this issue, the consequences could be severe, the visitors, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, both senior officials in the National Security Council, informed the Chinese.

The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran's nuclear program as an "existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don't listen to other countries," according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran, leading to a crisis in the Persian Gulf region and almost inevitably problems over the very oil China needs to fuel its economic juggernaut, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. [emphasis added]
That is some juggling that the Obama administration is doing. After all, the US has no problem telling Israel that its efforts against Iran are linked to the progress made on talks with Abbas. As ZOA notes:
· President Obama: “… there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process … To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians -- between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat” (‘Transcript of press conference with President Obama and PM Netanyahu,’ Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2009).

· Secretary Clinton: “For Israel to get the kind of strong support it’s looking for vis-a-vis Iran it can’t stay on the sideline with respect to the Palestinian and the peace efforts, that they go hand-in-hand …[every Arab official she has met] wants very much to support the strongest possible policy toward Iran [but] they believe that Israel’s willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran” (Glenn Kessler, ‘Clinton counters Israeli stance on Palestinians and Iran,’ Washington Post, April 24, 2009).

· Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: ‘“Relations between Israel and the U.S. are unbreakable,” Emanuel said before a gathering of 350 AIPAC donors, adding that “this is the moment of truth for Israel and the Palestinians.” He also declared that “Iran is the number-one threat to the Middle East,” and noted that it is hard to make progress wherever Tehran is involved in the Middle East. Emanuel called for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation if Iran is to be countered effectively.’ (Barak Ravid and Natasha Mosgovaya, ‘Obama gets tougher with Israel on Palestinians, Iran,’ Haaretz, May 5, 2009).
If anything, Netanyahu's agreement to a 10-month freeze on building in the settlements indicates the power the US holds over Israel by using the threat of a nuclear Iran against it.

Granted that China went ahead and agreed to the condemnation of Iran, but in light of Netanyahu's concession to the US--China might not be so easy to scare next time.

And others might also see through the charade as well.

Technorati Tag: and and and .

Post a Comment