Thursday, June 26, 2008

US Administration: "...there is much skepticism over Israel's ability to act alone on Iran..."

MEPGS: [Excerpts]
" While official Israeli planning is a very closely held matter, Israeli and US officials have made no secret of the fact that the two countries, in the words of one well-placed diplomat, "...are operating on different timetables." The Israelis suspect that the Bush Administration has effectively concluded that it will be the next Administration which has to make the "tough" decisions regarding actions necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons....
..Israel and the US would prefer to use the diplomatic track, if it is still viable. One approach to pressuring Iran that is supported by a growing number of Members of Congress, is to target the import of refined product. Although Iran is a major exporter of crude oil, because of its limited refinery capacity, it has to import as much as half of its daily use, by some estimates. However, this approach, even advocates admit, is
beset by a number of drawbacks....
...Still, there is much skepticism within the US government over Israel's ability to act alone. And key Administration officials see in the Mediterranean air maneuvers a lot more bravado than actual planning for an extremely difficult military operation. As one senior State Department official said last week, "When the Israelis went after the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and Syria's facility last year, there was no publicity before and very little afterwards."
.. Israeli and US policies regarding Syria and Lebanon have diverged recently, as well. Talks brokered by Turkey have been greeted by the Administration with at best, a heavy dose of skepticism. Key US officials, many of whom were not aware of the advanced state the talks had reached, are now saying they have no
choice but to support Israel's efforts. As one well-placed State Department official put it this week, "We are hardly in a position to discourage Israel from trying to make peace with one of its neighbors." However, this official could not hide his displeasure over concurrent Israeli talks (brokered by Germany) to win the release of its two soldiers kidnapped in the summer of 2006 [An action which led to the violent but inconclusive month long round of fighting between the two adversaries]....
...According to informed sources, Secretary Rice has long sought to reopen the Shebba Farms issue. More recently, she has cited it as an opportunity to bolster Siniora and the central government's standing. As one Administration critic of the Secretary puts it, "Her attitude is why shouldn't Siniora be able to claim a victory over Israel, just like Hezbollah?" Not surprisingly, the Israelis take exception to the Secretary's approach on practical and well as political grounds. Says one Israeli diplomat, "We'll open this issue up and soon the Syrians will be saying one thing, the Lebanese another and we will be going round and round, getting nowhere." Israel's riposte was Prime Minister Olmert's public declaration calling for Lebanese- Israeli talks on a wide range of issues. Although Olmert fully expected his offer to be turned down [Which Siniora promptly did], it still allowed the Israelis to emphasize that extant UN Security Council resolutions leave a number of issues, more important than Shebba Farms, still unresolved.
...Although Prime Minister Olmert may have scored a few political points in his public call for talks with Lebanon,..... he has become something of a figure of ridicule, says one senior White House official..."

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