Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eye-to-eye in the Middle East?

Not surprisingly, Monday’s meeting between President Barak Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to be assessed more in light of what was not said in their joint statement than in what was reported.

Obama and Netanyahu said they agreed on the critical need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. "We don't see closely on this, we see exactly eye to eye on this," Netanyahu said in a joint news conference with Obama at the White House.

Eye-to-eye does not necessarily mean heart-to-heart.

Netanyahu wanted Obama to give the Iranians a three month deadline to come to the table for serious talks on their burgeoning nuclear development program. Clearly, the Israelis are getting tired of Iran’s ingenuous assertions that their nuclear enrichment program is aimed at developing power plants.

On Newsweek’s web site, Dan Ephron reported ( the American government is concerned that a firm deadline would damage its attempts to repair 30 years of tension with Tehran and that it wants to assure the US can arrange meaningful negotiations with the one man who can make binding decisions in Iran - Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini.

Obama and Netanyahu are not the only government leaders with differing views on how to best deal with the Iranians. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report issued earlier this month, Iran: Where We Are Today, states that some U.S. government officials favor strict deadlines while others believe they would amount to a "recipe for failure."

As if to underscore the tenuous and problematic nature of the talks, the Israeli Embassy in Washington was evacuated at the same time that Netanyahu and Obama were meeting—the result of a bomb scare.

What kind of scare would erupt in the Middle East – and around the world – if Iran developed another kind of bomb … a nuclear bomb? How close is a nuclear confrontation in the Middle East?

Sounds like part of the plot for The Sacred Cipher – coming to a bookstore near you on July 31st.

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