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Stopping the Settlements in Return for Stopping Iran | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The US Defense Secretary warned against striking Iran saying that this would be fruitless. This was followed by the Israeli President who said that the idea of [Israel] carrying out a military strike against Iran is “nonsense” and US Vice President Biden also stated to the Israelis that striking Iran would be “ill-advised”.

Why have such warnings against the danger of the military option been issued now knowing that the Israeli press has begun to talk about tough negotiations taking place between Washington and Tel Aviv regarding the peace process and Iran?

The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper published the following headline: ‘Buscher for Yitzhar’. It refers to the idea that in order for Washington to respond to Israel’s demand that Washington prevents Iran from achieving nuclear armament then Israel must remove its settlements, particularly the Yitzhar settlement where most extremist Jews live.

The headline was based on comments made by the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to a prominent leader of a Jewish organization. Are we facing a new equation; there will be a stop to the settlements in exchange for stopping Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon?

There have been reports that Obama wants more time to talk to Tehran, whilst Netanyahu is demanding a limit of no more than four months. This comes at a time when Israel is preparing for its largest military exercise in its history against what it called “the threat of large missile attacks.”

The Financial Times reported that Hillary Clinton told Arab officials that she doubted that Iran would respond to Washington’s extended hand regarding dialogue, and if Tehran responds it will do so slowly in a way that might have an impact on the negotiations.

An Arab source told me, “It would be embarrassing for Obama to support Israel against Iran [considering] Israel’s obstinacy in the peace process and particularly in stopping the settlements, especially as there is Arab pressure on Obama to support the peace process and to stop the settlements.”

An American source said, “There is no discussion taking place in Washington right now on stopping the settlements in return for stopping Iran but that is what Israel wants and this is what is being reported in the Israeli media.”

The source added that Washington wants around six months to give dialogue with Iran enough of a chance. The source said, “I can say that a review of management policies on how to deal with Iran was completed in Washington a few days ago and it was decided that there would be broader dialogue.” What is meant here is that Washington wants to negotiate with Tehran on issues other than the nuclear file “such as Iraq and Afghanistan,” whilst the nuclear file will remain in the hands of Javier Solana.

That will be in addition to the 5 plus 1 meetings, which Washington will sit in on. The source stated, “Attending does not mean interfering or changing the rules of the game,” and added that there is cautious anticipation with regards to the upcoming meeting between Solana and Saeed Jalili.

Will dialogue with Iran come at the expense of regional states, in that Iran will be given a role that it should not be given? “Within the administration, there is insistence upon the necessity to send a clear message to the Iranians telling them not to expect an agreement at the expense of the Gulf States,” said the source.

Finally, the source stated, “I heard very clearly: ‘Be careful; do not worry the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE’”.

I asked is this merely a message of reassurance? The source answered, “All I heard clearly was: Nothing at the expense of regional states!”