U.S. Takes Risky Approach to Iran and the Middle East

As President Obama prepares to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington next week, the United States and its allies are crafting an approach toward the Middle East that carries high risk to Western interests and leaves Israel increasingly alone in an ever-more turbulent region.

The Obama Administration plans to travel the well-worn path of its predecessors – pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, seeking a U.S. agreement with Syria that would separate Damascus from Tehran, and coaxing Iran to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons and renounce terrorism.

Meanwhile, a skeptical Netanyahu hopes to convince the United States and its allies instead to heed the words of Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister, who cautioned some 30 years ago, with a bit of wry humor, that “political leaders do not always mean the opposite of what they say.”

And which “political leaders” does Netanyahu have in mind? The very ones with whom, the administration hopes, the United States and Israel will craft agreements – those of Iran and Syria, of their terrorist clients Hezbollah and Hamas, and of the supposedly more “moderate” Palestinian Authority.

These leaders have made clear that they have other priorities. Iranian leaders threaten the United States and Israel and pledge to pursue their nuclear program no matter what. Iran and Syria recently reaffirmed their support for Hezbollah and Hamas – groups that do not recognize Israel and work every day to destroy it. And even Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Rather than admit the obvious, the West – the governments and opinion leaders in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and other capitals – ignores such words and deeds and adopts the posture of a stubborn child, hands over ears, who screams “I’m not listening” loudly enough to drown out all other sound.

Worse, when forced to explain the continuing violence in a troubled region, the child-like West screams “Israel,” blaming Jerusalem for the terrorism that comes its way, for the lack of an Israel-Palestinian deal and a larger Arab-Israeli accord – and for all other manner of suffering there and elsewhere.

Consider: International inspectors believe Iran has enough uranium for one atom bomb, it has built the centrifuges that would produce two bombs a year, and it is between months and a year or two of passing the “point of no return” when it comes to the technology and know-how of nuclear weaponry.

With nuclear bombs (and with ballistic missiles that already could blanket Israel and the Arab world and reach southern Europe), Iran would be even freer to withstand outside pressure while confronting its enemies, supporting its terrorist clients and extending its influence across the region.

Not surprisingly, Netanyahu focuses foremost on Iran’s nuclear pursuit. Increasingly, so do Arab states, including Egypt to Saudi Arabia, who privately urge Washington to concentrate more on the problem and have announced they will launch their own nuclear programs in an obvious effort to counteract Tehran.

But the administration – hoping to improve America’s image – pressures Jerusalem to focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace-making in the time-honored but misguided notion that the Palestinians will accept land for peace, and that success in this endeavor will presage success across the region.

Success will not come there anyway, no matter what Israel offers or however much time it spends on the cause. The terrorists will not support it, their sponsors in Tehran and Damascus would not allow it even if they did and, for all their suffering, the Palestinian people do not seem to want it.

Were negotiations ever to get serious, Hamas and Hezbollah would do what they always do – launch terrorist strikes, the former from Gaza and the latter from southern Lebanon, that would derail the talks, force Israel to respond in kind and set things back to square one.

As the administration prepares to pursue forlorn paths in the region, Iran rushes ahead with a nuclear program that would threaten the United States and its allies (both Israel and the Arab states), destabilize the region, inoculate Hezbollah and Hamas against attack and feed Tehran’s regional aspirations.

Time is short and the risks are high. The White House will soon face the choice between the frightening reality of a nuclear Iran or the kind of sanctions, economic or otherwise, that might finally get Tehran’s attention.

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