Sunday, August 16, 2009

Arabs pressure Obama to endorse strike on Iran

By Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM – For the first time since coming into office, President Obama is under serious pressure to study the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran, a top Egyptian intelligence official told WND.

The Egyptian official said the pressure does not only come from Israel but also from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia that are at odds with Iran and its Shiite theocracy.

The official said Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, has been involved in an intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying effort urging the U.S. and other Western countries to do everything necessary to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. Such weapons would threaten Saudi Arabia's position of influence in the Middle East.

The Egyptian official said his country believes it is not likely Obama will grant Israel permission to attack Iran.

He spoke about other Arab countries' efforts to oppose an Iranian nuclear umbrella but did not comment on Egypt's own position on the matter.

Egypt recently granted Israel permission to conduct naval exercises off Egyptian coastal waters; those military drills were clearly aimed at Iran.

Also, recent reports in the Arab media, denied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, claimed Saudi Arabia granted Israel overflight permission for any aerial raid on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Until now, the Obama administration has sent mixed signals about green lighting Israeli military action against Iran while stressing it supports diplomacy with an Iranian leadership that has spurred the possibility of talks.

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden said during a CNN interview the U.S. would not stand in the way if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Israeli military action is needed to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat.

But multiple other administration officials warned against an Israeli attack.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in April such a strike would have dangerous consequences and asserted Tehran's acquisition of a bomb can be prevented only if "Iranians themselves decide it's too costly." His views have since been echoed by other Obama officials such as White House national security advisor Jim Jones.

Gates visited Israel several weeks ago reportedly to dissuade Jerusalem from any action until Obama's diplomacy is given a chance.

Obama has set a rough deadline of this fall for an answer from Iran about whether the country will talk. That deadline was postponed from a previous rough deadline of June.

Gates has said if Iran doesn't come to the bargaining table soon, the next step could be harsher international sanctions.

Israeli officials, however, stress sanctions are a long-term solution and that Iran is quickly acquiring the ingredients necessary to assemble a nuclear bomb.

Estimates in Jerusalem average between six to about 12 months before Iran might have the ability to begin assembling a nuclear warhead.

Israelis are worried Iran might use Obama's proposed talks as a smokescreen to continue secretly developing nuclear weapons technology.

Source: WND

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