Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left Israel Saturday night for talks with the present and future American presidents. The announced agenda is negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but a possible attack on Iran's nuclear site may be the main topic of the summit.
The visit to Washington comes days after President-elect Barack Obama called PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas to tell him that he would make every effort to complete a final agreement on a new Arab country within Israel's current borders. However, many analysts are pessimistic that the new president will succeed where others have failed
New evidence that Iran may have produced enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb, along with doubts that the next president will be aggresive towards Iran, has increased speculation that Israel wants to attack Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimates that Iran has amassed a quantity of low enriched uranium that some experts believe is enough to produce a bomb of the same size that the United States used to destroy Nagasaki at the end of World War II, according to the London Times.
The IAEA estimates that Iran has amassed enough low enriched uranium produce a bomb of the same size...used to destroy Nagasaki.
Responding to the report, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, "Some said it was enough; others said it was not enough, but close. In any case, you don’t want Iran to get close."
The White house played up the issue of talks between Israel and the PA and relegated the problem of Iran to "a wide range of international issues" that President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert will discuss.
"The prospect of Israel taking preemptive military action to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities appears to have become significantly more likely in recent weeks," according to intelligence sources quoted by the Times. "Such an operation would require at least tacit US cooperation because it would almost certainly involve Israeli warplanes flying through US-controlled airspace in Iraq."
President-elect Obama may be less cooperative than President Bush in allowing Israel to attack. During his presidential campaign race, he stated he is in favor of direct talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a move that would represent a total reversal of American policy that has tried to isolate the Tehran government.
US 'Record of Failure'
Despite his phone call to Abbas this past week, President-elect Obama is not likely to make the issue of a new Arab state a high priority issue, according to a recent conference of experts at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington Washington.
Aaron David Miller, a Wilson Center scholar who has served for years as a Middle East adviser and negotiator, said that the U.S. "record of failure" has left the country with less influence.
"We have gotten to a point where we are neither admired, feared nor respected in a region that is increasingly critical to our national interests," Miller said. "I do not know what it will take to put one of these particular interests, the Arab-Israeli issue, on the front burner."
He added that the war in Iraq and the threat from Iran will force the new president to be careful before taking any significant steps concerning Israel and the PA.
"No new president - certainly not one who is untested in foreign policy and on whose shoulders huge expectations have already been laid - wants to, or can, court an early failure," Miller explained.
Another expert, Middle East Policy Survey editor Richard Straus, stated that President-elect Obama will not make a major thrust for a new Arab state without the urging of the next Prime Minister.