One can only conclude that, even after Iran has the bomb, the mantra “there is still room for diplomacy” will continue to issue from official US mouths and the Washington-Tehran dialogue drag on, possibly through new channels, as it does with Pyongyang.
After they meet, the US President may reward the Israeli Prime Minister with a marginally more assertive statement about Iran as a sort of consolation prize for his restraint. But that will not change the fact that neither has raised a finger to halt a nuclear Iran, both preferring to bow to domestic political pressures and considerations.
Their inaction has given two Middle East leaders a major boost for progress on their own nuclear initiatives.
Last March, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was recently appointed head of general intelligence, travelled secretly to Beijing and returned with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s consent to sell Saudi Arabia nuclear-capable CSS-5 Dong-Feng 21 MRBM ballistic missiles. He also agreed to send over Chinese nuclear engineers and technicians to help Saudi Arabia develop uranium enrichment and other nuclear production capacities.
This work is already in progress at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology near Riyadh.
In the last few weeks, Saudi Crown Prince Salman launched negotiations with Tehran on a non-aggression pact and other understandings covering bilateral cooperation behind America’s back on such issues as Syria.
It should be obvious from this development alone that the Middle East nuclear race, which both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted would be triggered by a nuclear Iran, unless preempted, is in full flight, a fact of which they have neglected to inform the general public in both countries.
But there is more.
After less than three months in office, the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is following in Saudi footsteps: He will kick off his first foreign trips next week with a visit to Beijing, where he hopes to take a leaf out of the Saudi nuclear book. He then touches down in Tehran, ostensibly to attend the Non-Aligned Organization’s summit opening there on Aug. 26, but meanwhile to cultivate ties with Tehran for common action in the Middle East.
He has laid the ground for this by proposing the creation of a new “contact group” composed of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to disentangle the Syrian conflict – again behind America’s back.
The optimistic presumption that the Egyptian president will have to dance to Washington’s tune to win economic assistance is proving unfounded.
And Obama’s hands are tied.
In June 2009, he bound his administration’s Middle East policy to mending American ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, he can hardly starve the new Cairo administration of financial aid.
And the Egyptian president is riding high. Believing he can get away with it, he may even proclaim from Tehran that the two nations have decided to resume diplomatic relations after they were cut off for 31 years.
This chain of events confronts Israel with three strategic predicaments:
1. Even if Riyadh, Cairo and Tehran are unable to come to terms in their first efforts at understanding, the fact remains that Saudi Arabia and Egypt have set their faces toward détente with Iran.
2. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are on the road to a nuclear weapon although Egypt is still trailing far behind.
3. In the five weeks remaining before the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China will be moving forward vigorously toward their strategic, military and nuclear goals, while the US and Israel will be stuck in the doldrums of their interminable argument over who goes first against Iran – if at all.