Friday, April 29, 2011

"Israeli officials want a public commitment from Washington to protect the Saudi regime.."

Ted Koppel writes in the WSJ:
"... None of America's allies is more sensitive to even the most subtle changes in the international environment, or more conscious of the slightest hint of diminished support from Washington... Netanyahu has been so concerned that a member of his fractious coalition might give vent to some damaging public observation on this issue that he has imposed a strict "nobody talks on the subject but me" rule. That the gag has been even partially effective, given the wide-open nature of the Israeli political process, is astonishing. It is also a measure of how worried the Israelis are.
My own reporting on the Middle East in general and Israel in particular goes back almost 40 years—to the days of Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy in the region. On a recent visit to Jerusalem, I met with a number of very senior current and former government officials who spoke on a not-for-attribution basis. They were anything but restrained in voicing their concerns, and some of the views expressed in this article reflect the outlook of the prime minister himself.
Overshadowing all other concerns is the fear that Iran is poised to reap enormous benefits from the so-called Arab Spring. "Even without nukes," one top official told me, "Iran picks up the pieces. With nukes, it takes the house."... What is new is a growing worry that America's adversaries will be less inclined to take warnings from Washington seriously.
The Israeli government is so concerned that America's adversaries may miscalculate U.S. intentions that it is privately urging Washington to make it clear that the U.S. would intervene in Saudi Arabia should the survival of that government be threatened. That is, after all, what President George H.W. Bush did more than 20 years ago when Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi forces into Kuwait and moved forces in the direction of Saudi Arabia. "This," President Bush said on more than one occasion, "will not stand." And it didn't..... the Israelis are convinced that the principle needs to be unambiguously restated, if only as a reminder that Washington knows where its critical national interests lie. Absent such a public recommitment, they worry that Iran will be encouraged to even greater mischief...
Just as enemies such as Iran need to be cautioned, America's traditional allies need to be reassured. That's why Israeli officials are recommending a Marshall Plan for Egypt... the Israelis believe it is essential to prevent its economic collapse....
here (in Syria's case) the Israelis are far more comfortable with stability on their borders. Assad, like his father before him, has maintained an uneasy truce along Syria's border with Israel, despite Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights.
Little, if anything, that has happened during the past few months has improved Israel's standing in the region. One of the most telling blows to Israel's security has gone all but unnoticed in the swirl of uprisings. For years, the most stable relationship that Israel enjoyed with any Muslim nation was with Turkey. Even under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has specialized in publicly baiting the Israelis, the relationship between the two countries' intelligence agencies remained strictly professional. "That," a high-ranking Israeli official told me, "is no longer the case."

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