Swoop: Washington’s World: July 23rd – 29th, 2012 – Middle East Tensions

Swoop: Washington’s World: July 23rd – 29th, 2012 – Middle East Tensions
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Swoop: “The coincidence in timing of the bombing in Bulgaria and the veto cast by Russian and China against the US-supported UN resolution on Syria demonstrate the confluence of the Middle East problems facing the US. In both cases, the common element is – or is alleged to be – Iran, accused by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of complicity in the bombing and identified as a key supporter of the Assad regime in Syria.

In the wake of the Burgas killings, US officials are conducting urgent exchanges with their Israeli counterparts in an attempt to moderate any Israeli retaliation. Contacts close to the intelligence community tell us that Washington is concerned that the Israelis might use the killings as a pretext to launch an attack against Iranian nuclear sites. Pentagon and national security council officials are pressing Israeli leaders to exercise restraint, reminding them that, according to US information, the new and tougher sanctions are having a real impact on Iranian thinking and also highlighting that the US is moving additional naval and air assets into the region – which in itself risks escalation. Most of all, they are arguing that, with Syria on the brink of possible disintegration and concern rising about the security of its chemical weapons stockpile, the region and world cannot afford another war front. Tensions are high in Tel Aviv, but US officials tell us they still believe that they can stay Israel’s hand.

Governor Romney is due to visit Israel at the end of the month, so this issue will take on new salience in the domestic political debate.

On Syria, US officials acknowledge that they have no good options. They believe that the regime’s days are numbered, but have little confidence that any successor governance arrangements will be stable. Representatives of a number of US agencies are in close touch with members of the Syrian opposition, but to date have been unable to fashion a coherent and representative body. Despite official indignation at continued Russia support of Damascus, behind-the-scenes contacts are intense, including a conversation between Presidents Obama and Putin. Our contacts still tell us not to expect any substantial US intervention on the ground.

Finally, the Administration is continuing to cast a critical eye toward China. This will continue – indeed will intensify – until after the presidential election, but does not necessarily reflect how post-election policy will develop.”

Source: http://theswoop.net
Photo Credits
: President Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office before a phone call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, July 18, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Chris Mizelle, Director for Russia and Central Asia, NSS; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Jack Lew; and Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)