Washington: Weakened Ahmadinejad may seek military adventures

Two fundamental conceptions underpinning the Obama administration’s Middle East policies have been swept away by the upheaval in Iran. debkafile‘s Washington sources report that direct or even multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran have vanished in the distance – for one, and the premise that progress on the Palestinian peace front is the key to a breakthrough with Iran is another.
The turmoil in Tehran has demonstrated that any connection between internal unrest in the Islamic republic, its nuclear program and the Israel-Palestinian issue is contrived.
Still, White House officials, who refuse to publicly admit they were wrong, continue to pressure the Netanyahu government to freeze all settlement construction as though it were relevant to their Middle East woes. Now, they have decided that Binyamin Netanyahu is weak enough to be squeezed into surrendering and the Obama administration can then claim a big Middle East success.
Sunday, June 28, a number of Washington observers familiar with White House thinking cited insiders as speculating that should Netanyahu venture to defy the US, his coalition government is too fragile to survive a breach with Israel’s foremost ally, he would be pushed out and succeeded by defense minster Ehud Barak.
The main Israeli settlement concentrations cover no more than 1.7 percent of West Bank territory and the marginal expansion for growth would add less than one percent. Clearly, the controversy is more political than territorial. Some circles in Jerusalem suspect the Obama administration has blown it up more to undermine Netanyahu than to placate the Arabs.
debkafile‘s sources note that these evaluations about the durability of the Netanyahu government were released by Washington ahead of Barak’s arrival Monday, June 29, to iron out the settlement controversy between the Israeli and US governments. They were meant to signal Netanyahu that any understanding his defense minister might achieve with the Americans would not serve the prime minister but be fodder for his political rivals.
This approach was designed mainly by the White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who now arguments that the failure to corner Netanyahu on the settlement issue will dent the Obama administration credibility in Arab eyes.
In other words, the Iranian scarecrow is now replaced by an Arab bogyman for brandishing in front of Netanyahu.
Washington and Jerusalem share the fear that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s humiliation and diminished status at home may well goad him into embarking on a dangerous military adventure against Israel or US targets in Afghanistan or Iraq. In Jerusalem it makes sense for the United Stats to strengthen the informal Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli connection as a bulwark against wild Iranian ideas. This alliance, the brainchild of Barak, has been enthusiastically embraced by the prime minister. They are entirely of one mind on this policy. Therefore, the White House’s presumption that the defense minister can be turned against Netanyahu makes no sense in Israeli terms.
From Jerusalem, it looks suspiciously as though the Obama White House anti-settlement drive has become a two-pronged campaign to undercut Netanyahu’s position at home and assemble a new set of principles – or at least a strategy – to replace the president’s engagement policy which Ahmadinejad blocked in his weekend slanging match with the US president.

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