Swoop: Washington’s World: March 12th – 18th, 2012 – Rumors of War

Swoop: Washington’s World: March 12th – 18th, 2012 – Rumors of War
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Swoop: “War drums have sounded throughout the week over Iran and Syria and the talk of war will continue to be the main theme of the foreign policy debate at least up until the election. One media outlet has introduced what it calls the Iran War Clock. As General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made clear, contingency planning for action against both Syria and Iran is underway. Whether these plans will be put into effect will be the open question set to dominate Washington. On the one side, President Obama and his top military advisers will argue for restraint.

On Iran, US intelligence officials do not believe that Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapon – or even that Tehran has made the decision to do so. While this assessment is in stark contrast to those on the Israeli side, it does mean that the Administration believes that it has time on its side to allow sanctions to take effect and to pursue negotiations via the UN. All other things being equal, there is little doubt that the Administration would not be forcing the pace on Iran. However, as an NSC official commented to us: “All things are not equal. The Israelis are pushing us to take action in the next few months.”

Our White House contacts tell us that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave away nothing at his March 5th meeting with Obama and came away reserving the right to act unilaterally.

Uncertainty and concern about Israeli intentions constitutes a prime drive of US thinking. On Syria, Secretary of Defense Panetta has set out a detailed case of the risks of US military engagement there.  However, with Congressional voices increasingly demanding some form of US involvement, we do not rule out measures like a no-fly zone at some stage.

The talk of future war is obscuring the rising concern felt in many quarters of the Administration about Afghanistan. A Pentagon official explained: “Many of the metrics are moving against us. We have no confidence that we will leave behind a sustainable government. But we do not know whether to accelerate our departure or try to patch things up.”

On Russia, the State Department welcomed the holding of the presidential elections, but there is little expectation that relations with President Putin will be easy. As one senior State Department official commented to us: “With his legitimacy under attack at home, Putin will be looking for chances to settles scores with us.”

Source: http://theswoop.net

Photo Credits: White House – President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia while aboard Air Force One en route to Richmond, Va., March 9, 2012. Alice Wells, Senior Director for Russian Affairs, is seated at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)