White House rules out one-on-one talks with Iran on Iraq – unless Tehran suspends nuclear activities

The Iraq Study Group recommended direct engagement with the Islamic Republic and Syria in the report it submitted Wednesday, Dec. 6, and also called for direct talks between Israel and Syria.
Its report, presented to the White House Wednesday, advised these direct Israel-Syrian talks as part of a revived U.S. commitment to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace “on all fronts.”
The Israeli prime minister’s office, responding to incomplete leaks from the bipartisan reports, assured the public Wednesday that there is no diplomatic pressure on the horizon. His aides must have missed this phrase: “The US cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it embarks on a renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive peace plan on all fronts.”
A further the recommendation for US troops in Iraq to withdraw “from combat roles” leaves Jordan and Israel exposed on their eastern fronts to the mayhem in Iraq. Since the US presence in Iraq cannot be sustainable without engaging Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda in combat, this wording appears to be a euphemism for the US military exit from Iraq in just over a year.
And if the White House indeed takes up the Bush-Hamilton recommendation to deal directly with Iran and Syria, the Bush administrations policy somersault on the Middle East will be complete. Four significant changes are indicated:
1. The US finds itself unable to prevent or respond to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, as incoming defense secretary Robert Gates stated bluntly in the Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
2. American forces will be gone from Iraq in just over a year.
3. Washington will soon embark on a fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
4. Direct US-Iran, US-Syria talks are in the offing.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources note that Israel’s leaders, PM Ehud Olmert and FM Tzipi Livni, have not come up with any serious responses to the Gates statement on Iran and the Baker-Hamilton recommendations – both of which bear fundamentally on Israel’s security in the face of existential dangers. They would be well advised to get their act together fast, because the Bush administration is not expected to delay before putting these recommendations into effect.

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