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'Over 50% chance for Iran conflict in coming year'
By DAVID BREAKSTONE
11/13/2012
David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN, tells Jewish Federations there is a high chance of conflict with Iran.
 
BALTIMORE – David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN, has said that the chances for conflict with Iran erupting in the next two to 24 months are greater than 50 percent, and, according to some estimates, as high as 90%.

Speaking before a packed audience of 3,000 that had gathered for the annual General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, Gergen was remarkably candid in his discussion of Israel-America relations now that the US presidential elections are over.

President Barack Obama will be focused during his second term on domestic issues, he predicted, but would nevertheless not be able to avoid the Middle East even if he wanted to. There is simply too much unresolved and too much at stake, he said.

And the central conundrum he will have to deal with is Iran. “In my 30 years in and out of politics,” he reflected, “this is the toughest problem I have ever seen.”

Shortly after the Israeli elections, he ventured – assuming, as expected, that Netanyahu will continue in office – the prime minister is likely to ask the United States for a green light to take military action against Iran. This, he said, will create enormous angst, as the two countries differ significantly in regard to the point at which intervention becomes necessary.

For Netanyahu, the “red line” needs to be drawn at the moment when Iran develops the capability to produce a nuclear weapon. For Obama, it needs to be drawn only when such a weapon is actually manufactured. This is likely to cause an unprecedented crisis in relations between the two countries.

The only way to avoid such a crisis, Gergen argued, is for Israel and America to open a new chapter in their dealings with one another. Both sides must recognize and take responsibility for the things that they have done to antagonize one another, and agree to negotiate new understandings out of the headlines.

“We don’t need red lines being drawn on national or international television,” he noted. “The problem is too big and too complex to try to solve by backing one another into a corner.”

In the same speech, Gergen also noted the need to recognize the dramatic change in the demographics of the American electorate, and to heed new voices that are demanding to be heard.

“When Clinton ran for president,” he observed, “87% of those voting were white. In this past election, that percentage dropped to 74%.”

“It is women put Obama back in the White House,” he contended, “and minorities play a much larger role in the political arena than they used to, particularly the Latino community. White men, like myself, need to make room around the table for others, including those of a younger generation.”

Indeed, it may be that Obama might have lost the election had it been held in Israel, he said, but Netanyahu would likely lose his bid for leadership were the contest to take place in the United States. Presumably Gergen was referring to the huge discrepancy between the preferences of Jewish voters in the two countries, with more than two-thirds of those in America having voted for Obama, the candidate supported by less than one-third of Israeli Jews.
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