Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: Watching carefully as Israel's Netanyahu meets Obama

May 18, 2009 |  6:14 am

NetanyahuAlthough Iran wouldn't admit to being too concerned, it is carefully watching today's developments in Washington, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with President Obama in an effort to persuade him that confronting Iran, not resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should be the first item on his Middle East agenda.

Netanyahu's visit has been noted on television news broadcasts. The conservative daily newspaper Javan alleged Sunday that Netanyahu had traveled to Washington to report on "the cooperation of some moderate Arab leaders with Israel to confront Iran."

The conservatives who dominate Iran's political establishment abhor Israel's attempts to reach out to Arab leaders. 

The sentiment is the result of a complicated, decades-long game of power politics among the Middle East's major players. 
At the heart of the game is the question of the Palestinians and who gets to champion their cause. 

After Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the hard-line Iranian daily Quds newspaper said last week that Cairo and Israel were trying to build "an axis of evil" against Palestinians:

"If the resistance groups don't form a powerful front against the common plots of Egypt and Israel, the idea of a Palestinian independent government will be marginalized forever."

The U.S., of course, is also a major player in the Middle East game. Today, Tehran's hard-line Jomhouri Eslami daily newspaper noted with apparent satisfaction that Obama had reportedly warned Israel against air strikes on Iranian nuclear installations. 

But in Obama's reluctance for a hot conflict it sees not prudence but fear of Iran's capabilities:

"If the US president is hastily sending messages to the Israeli cabinet and asking them to avoid any attack on Iran, it is simply because of the fact that he has witnessed the experiences of his predecessors in dealing with Iran within the last 30 years and he is well aware that taking action against Iran won't bear any result for America but defeat."

It goes to show that at least some Iranian hardliners may view any U.S. diplomatic olive branches as signs of weakness. 

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrive in Washington on May 17. Credit: Amos Moshe Milner / GPO via Getty Images