Saturday, September 26, 2009

Iran Nuclear Site Could Pose Test to U.S., Israel Ties

"Iran's disclosure that it has been building a secret nuclear site ratchets up already simmering tensions between the Islamic Republic and Israel, raising questions about whether President Obama retains enough influence to prevent Israel from launching a preemptive military strike should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government turn to its last resort. 

Polls show Obama's popularity is waning in Israel, where some say his administration is too conciliatory toward the Palestinians. He also took a beating in the Israeli press for his speech at the U.N. on Wednesday, when he warned that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," though Israeli officials continued to publicly praise him for his efforts at restarting peace talks. 

The president made clear Friday that he remains committed to "serious, meaningful engagement with Iran" to deal with the nuclear issue through upcoming talks among Iran, Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. 

But Israel views Iran as the world's greatest threat and continues to keep a military option on the table. If push comes to air strike, can Obama step in the middle? 

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the U.S. president is on weak ground as the revelation over the nuclear site makes an Israeli strike appear more likely. 

"He will strongly urge Israel against military action, but Israel will do whatever is in the best interest of Israeli security, and I don't think that Barack Obama will have the political capital to prevent an Israeli strike if Israel chooses to go down that route," Gardiner said. 

Dan Gillerman, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, told FOX News Friday that Israel is prepared to take military action if sanctions don't work -- and suggested that it was prepared to act alone."

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