Monday, May 18, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Study - Iran Issue Will 'Make or Break' US President

by David Bedein

A report issued on the eve of today’s summit between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama says U.S. policy toward Iran’s nuclear program could determine the outcome of the president’s administration.

The report, published by The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), warns the issue could be “the Cuban missile crisis all over again.”

“It will test the ability of the newly-elected U.S. president to confront the adversary and better him. In a way, this is a make-or-break situation for Obama,” analyst Ephraim Asculai wrote in the INSS report, titled “The Game with Iran.”

The INSS report said Tehran would test Mr. Obama’s resolve by continuing uranium enrichment and other activities required for nuclear weapons development.

It also says the United States will likely be forced to confront rising instability in the Middle East sparked by Iran’s nuclear program, as well as by Tehran’s support for insurgency groups. The report cited Egypt’s capture of an alleged Hezbollah network, which reportedly planned attacks throughout the Sinai Peninsula as an example.

“Egypt is confronting Iran and instability is in the air,” the report said. “Perhaps more than the recent U.S. elections, the timetable is now dictated by the closing deadline of Iran’s nuclear progress.”

Earlier this month, CIA director Leon Panetta held a meeting with the Israeli prime minister and reportedly demanded Israel not take any military action against Iran.

Officials said Mr. Obama ordered Mr. Panetta’s visit because he wanted to avoid a long discussion on Iran during today’s meeting in Washington.

Mr. Asculai, a former official in the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said the Obama administration likely will pursue a diplomatic solution to Iran’s outlawed uranium enrichment program. But the report advises Mr. Obama to set a deadline for obtaining diplomatic results.

“In setting the time limit, the president must remember that any time gained by the Iranians during the negotiation process would be used to further advance their project,” the report warned.

The report said Iran could exploit the Obama administration’s diplomatic endeavors by insisting its nuclear project is nonnegotiable. Doing so, the report said, would harm U.S. influence throughout the Middle East, particularly among the Gulf Cooperation Council states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Mr. Asculai urged Israel to delay plans to attack Iran and instead recommended the Netanyahu government give Mr. Obama time to discover how receptive Iran is to diplomacy.

“Should engagement fail, Israel would be in a better position to convince the United States, if not to actively support, then at least not to interfere, with any military action,” the report said.

See this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this story at Israel Behind the News

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