SECRETARY GATES IN TEL AVIV: A COMMENT
"As you know, our president came to office with a very clear preference for talking with people and not prejudging what might come from those talks. Winston Churchill famously said it’s always better to jaw-jaw, meaning talk-talk, war-war. And of course, that is our view. And the president and I made it clear that we would be willing to have direct talks with Iran, and we had hoped that we would get a response that was positive, that would help to create the circumstances for that kind of dialogue....
So we have said that the door is open to what we would like to see as a one-on-one engagement with Iran. But they are so preoccupied right now, and at the same time, the nuclear clock is ticking. We know that they are continuing to pursue their nuclear program, so we’re discussing with our counterparts around the world if there is no meaningful and sincere engagement not only with us, but with other countries – there’s a mechanism called the P-5+1, which the Security Council basically – the United States, obviously – where we’ve been talking with the Iranians about their nuclear program for a couple of years.
So it’s not just us and Iran; it’s the world and Iran. And as you know, the people in Iran’s neighborhood are the most concerned and are the ones who come to see me and convey their deep apprehension about what might happen. So we will still hold the door open, but we also have made it clear that we’ll take actions, as I’ve said time and time again, crippling actions, working to upgrade the defense of our partners in the region. We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment, that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon.
So I think there is still a lot of opportunity here, but we are not going to keep the window open forever".
American Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 22 July 2009, in www.state.gov
"We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table. This is our policy. We mean it. We recommend to others to take the same position but we cannot dictate it to anyone."
Israel Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, 26 July 2009, in www.haaretz.com
The American Secretary of State, Mr. Gates is in Israel, meeting with his opposite numbers, and, it seems notwithstanding the tensions between the Netanyahu Cabinet and the American Administration, the American Defense Secretary is being as supportive of his hosts concerns about Persia's nuclear ambitions as possible. According to the excellent Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Secretary Gates stating that
"If the engagement process is not successful, the United States is prepared to press for significant additional sanctions...We would try to get international support for a much tougher position....Our hope remains that Iran would respond to the president's outstretched hand in a positive and constructive way, but we'll see."
"Gates vows Tougher Sanctions if nuclear talks fail," 26 July 2009, in www.haaretz.com
Adding that the United States would:
"continue to ensure that Israel has the most advanced weapons for its national defense".
Why the sudden concern, given the fact that the Americans have heretofore been reluctant to listen to the Netanyahu government's concern about the possibility of Persia acquiring nuclear weapons and or the capability to make them? Especially in conjunction with the ongoing difficulties between the two government over the settlement issue? If one would hazard a surmise, it is that: a) the outcome of the recent Persian Presidential elections and the aftermath of the same, seem to demonstrate that Teheran is not very likely to be willing to negotiate a plausible settlement of its nuclear ambitions with Washington and its allies; b) that the ballon d'essai, offered up, by Secretary Gates colleague, Secretary of State Clinton, in Thailand last week, to the effect that the Americans would 'extend a defence umbrella', over its allies in the Near East if necessary, was in effect 'punctured'by Tel Aviv. The Israelis, stating clearly and unequivocally that such a 'solution', was almost as worse as the problem that it was intended to fix. With Dan Meridor, the Israeli Intelligence Service Minister, stating that:
"This is a mistake....We cannot act now by assuming that Iran [Persia] will be able to arm itself with a nuclear weapon, but to prevent such a possibility".
"US pledges to defend Gulf against Iran," 23 July 2009, in www.ft.com
The fact that Secretary Clinton backtracked on her idea, does not obviate the fact that it was an attempt to put forward a non-military, plan 'b' option to deal with the possibility that Persia will in fact have, or be capable of producing nuclear weapons in the next two to four years time. The strong Israeli response had the end-result of Gates making his reassuring statements to his Israeli hosts. Unfortunately, as everyone now recognizes the diplomatic clock is ticking and if nothing of substance occurs by the end of October, then it would appear that Minister Barak's dictum that: 'no options be removed from the table', might have an even more threatening meaning to it, then it does even now. Given the way that things seem to look in Persia at the moment, it is difficult to surmise a way in which either diplomacy or even the threat of more sanctions will result in Teheran climbing down and seeing reason.