For the first time since coming into office, President Obama is under serious pressure to study the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran, a top Egyptian intelligence official told this column.
The Egyptian official said the pressure is not only coming from Israel but also from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia that are at odds with Iran and its Shiite theocracy.
The official said Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, has been involved in an intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying effort urging the U.S. and other Western countries to do everything necessary to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. Such weapons would threaten Saudi Arabia’s position of influence in the Middle East.
The Egyptian official said his country believes it unlikely that Obama will grant Israel permission to attack Iran. He spoke about other Arab countries’ efforts to oppose an Iranian nuclear umbrella but did not comment on Egypt’s own position on the matter.
Egypt recently granted Israel permission to conduct naval exercises off Egyptian coastal waters; those military drills were clearly aimed at Iran. Also, recent reports in the Arab media, denied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, claimed Saudi Arabia granted Israel overflight permission for any aerial raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Daniel Kurtzer Leads All Runners For
U.S. Ambassador To Syria
Daniel Kurtzer, President Obama’s Mideast adviser, is the lead candidate to serve as U.S. ambassador to Syria, a senior Arab security official told WorldNetDaily.
Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, has long been seen in Jerusalem as one of the Jewish state’s greatest foes in Washington. He has been identified by Jewish and Israeli leaders, including prime ministers speaking on the record, as biased against Israel and is notorious for urging extreme concessions from the Jewish state.
In a surprise move, the White House in June announced it decided to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria, a dramatic sign of reconciliation between the two countries. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador to Syria in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria was widely blamed in the murder.
Syria, in a military alliance with Iran, also is accused of supporting the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria openly supports Palestinian terrorism, and hosts the leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups.
Hizbullah To Expand Activities Overseas
The Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist organization has decided to carry out attacks against Israelis abroad, including possibly assassinating high profile figures, Israeli defense sources told this column.
The information comes amid a war of rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon. Last week Israel also temporarily advanced toward the Lebanese border following reports that the militia had stockpiled 40,000 rockets in the area and was training its guerrillas to use missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv.
Defense sources here said Israel does not believe there will be a border confrontation with Hizbullah in the near future. The sources said military movements and the recent escalation of rhetoric were intended as a response to Hizbullah’s assassination plans as well as to send a clear message to the Lebanese government that the country will be held responsible for Hizbullah actions should the militia join the cabinet.
The officials added that Hizbullah’s decision to attack Israelis overseas was part of its determination to punish Israel for assassinating its military mastermind, Imad Mugniyeh, in a car bombing in Syria February 12, 2008.
Obama Wants Palestinian State Now,
Will Worry About Security Later
The U.S. is seeking a deal to the Israeli-Palestinian issue that will immediately set the final borders of a Palestinian, leaving other issues, such as security and water, for a later date, according to a senior Egyptian official.
The Egyptian official was in Washington this week alongside his country’s president, Hosni Mubarak, who met with President Obama on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to talk on the record.
The Egyptian official said Obama stressed that the U.S. is applying “huge” pressure on Israel to agree to a complete freeze of Jewish construction in the strategic West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. He said the U.S. is demanding a two-year freeze, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will only concede to six months.
The Egyptian official said the Palestinian Authority is seeking to use concessions from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a starting point for new talks with Netanyahu.
Olmert reportedly offered the Palestinians not only 95 percent of the West Bank and peripheral eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, but also other territories never before offered by any Israeli leader, including parts of the Negev desert as well as Beit Shean in the Jordan Valley just outside the Dead Sea.
This column reported exclusively in November 2008 that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice collected notes and documents from Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to ensure that the incoming U.S. administration would not need to start negotiations from scratch. PA sources said Rice’s notes have already been used by Obama’s team as the starting points for new Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “The Late Great State of Israel.” Follow Klein on Twitter under the name “AaronKleinWND.”