US backs off speedy Iran sanctions promised Israel
Washington eased the threat of harsh sanctions hanging over Iran's head over its nuclear program at the very moment that it was beginning to take effect and Tehran was showing signs of stress. Tuesday March 2, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on her plane to Buenos Aires: "We are moving expeditiously and thoroughly in the Security Council, I can't give you an exact date, but I would assume some time in the next several months."
This abrupt reversal of US tactics on Iran's nuclear activities took place when Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak was hardly out the door from Washington after receiving assurances from administration officials that a new round of tough sanctions would be in place by the end of March, with or without the Security Council. Clinton herself assured a Senate panel last week that stiff sanctions would be clamped down on Iran "in the next 30 to 60 days."
Clinton and defense secretary Robert Gates, when they talked to Barak last Thursday, Feb. 25, were so sure of that timeline that they fixed a date for the defense minister to return got Washington for the second time in a month after sanctions were in place.
debkafile's Iranian sources add that the Islamic Republic's leaders were also convinced last week that the US and likeminded European governments had finally made up their minds to new sanctions in the space of a month. They read the reports leaked to the US media by administration sources about plans to freeze Iran's external banking connections and cripple Revolutionary Guards businesses, and heard that the White House and a number of staunch European Union governments was ready to go ahead and sidestep the slow-moving, hamstrung Security Council.
Tehran's anxiety brought Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad running to Damascus on Feb. 25 to pull his alliance together. Brandishing his fist, he warned that Iran would not knuckle under to sanctions and the Middle East stood at the threshold of a new war.
Iran's war preparations hinged on the assignment of operational tasks to its allies and proxies, including the leaders of eleven Palestinian terrorist organizations based in Syria and Lebanon, who were summoned to Tehran Saturday, Feb. 27. They were given their instructions and treated to the most vicious anti-Israel, anti-Semitic invective from Ahmadinejad heard anywhere since World War II.
In another threat, the deputy Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami stressed Sunday, Feb. 28 that Iran controlled 50 percent of the world's fuel reserves and if sanctions were imposed, Europe would be very cold next winter.
The Obama administrations response to these threats has been to buckle.
Suddenly, Secretary Clinton announced sanctions would take a leisurely "several months," so easing Tehran's concerns and enabling its rulers to carry on its dash for a nuclear bomb, even after the new International Atomic Energy Agency director in Vienna Yukiya Amano noted that its peaceful nature could not be confirmed.
The American U-turn has left Israel high and dry with the Iranian nuclear threat looming ever closer.
Month after month, the Obama administration was able to hold Israel back from attacking its nuclear facilities only by a guarantee of tough sanctions, first promised for the end of last year and latterly by the end of March. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu believed he was in tune with Washington when he visited Moscow two weeks ago to discuss sanctions in the immediate term and arms sales to Tehran, and sent minister for strategy affairs Moshe Yaalon to Beijing to persuade the Chinese not to stall urgent sanctions at the Security Council.
Israeli government officials now feel they have been strung along and, moreover, that their diplomatic efforts in Moscow and Beijing were irrelevant.
To mark Washington's change of face, John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee landed in Jerusalem this week, to be followed March 8 by Vice President Joe Biden. They are on hand to bulldoze the Obama administration's bid to keep Israel in what Kerry called "alignment" with Washington on the Iranian nuclear threat. They will first have to explain to prime minister Netanyahu and Barak how their previous "alignment "on speedy sanctions suddenly broke down and no effective international action is any longer in play to delay Iran's ambitions.