A high-level Israeli delegation held talks at the the White House this week on a
range of regional issues, including the Syrian crisis and Iran’s nuclear
program. While Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal regime may be the most
pressing issue facing the international community following its apparent use of
chemical weapons against its own civilians last week, it is Iran that remains
Israel’s main concern. And there are signs it has also become a genuine concern
for US President Barack Obama as well.
A report by the International
Atomic Energy Agency due to be released today is expected to show that Iran is
pressing ahead with its nuclear program by further increasing its capacity to
enrich uranium, Reuters quoted diplomats as saying on Monday. At the same time,
Iran is a primary supporter and sponsor of the Assad regime, Hezbollah and other
Aaron David Miller, a former State Department
adviser who is an expert on the Middle East, argues in an article in Politico
that Tehran is where Obama has drawn “his other red line – this time not on the
large-scale use of chemical weapons but on Iran possessing a nuclear
“Assuming Obama keeps his use of force in Syria within strict
limits, it’s the Iran nuclear issue that represents the real game changer, not
Syria,” Miller writes. “Better to keep his options open, then, and not get
bogged down in Syria or wrestle with the Russians over Assad’s fate where they
won’t give much. He may need them for diplomacy and pressure if there’s an
endgame coming with the mullahs.”
According to the unidentified diplomats
quoted by Reuters, Iran has started making fuel for a heavy-water reactor that
could produce plutonium, a development that worries the West because of its
potential to be used in a nuclear weapon.
On the other hand, the
diplomats said the new report by the IAEA is likely to include data showing that
Iran is limiting growth of its most sensitive nuclear stockpile, a move that
could buy it time for negotiations with the US and other major
Such findings paint a mixed picture of Iran’s atomic activities
at a time when the world is waiting to see if its new president, Hassan Rouhani,
will seek to ease tension with the Islamic Republic’s Western critics, led by
While the world is now distracted by the situation in Syria,
Iran’s centrifuges are continuing to spin to produce enriched uranium, an
essential ingredient for a nuclear bomb.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu made a point of noting Iran’s role in Syria on Sunday, after meeting
with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Jerusalem.
isn’t acting alone,” Netanyahu said.
“Iran and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah,
are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s
regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing
“Now the whole world is watching,” Netanyahu added. “Iran is
watching too, and it wants to see what the reaction will be to the use of
As a US-led strike on Syria appears increasingly
likely, Israel will be watching closely too. Not wanting to become embroiled in
the conflict of its hostile northern neighbor, Israel can only hope that the
international community punishes Assad for ordering the use of chemical weapons
against his own people, and stops him from using them again.
action will send a clear message, not only to Syria, but also to Iran. Perhaps
just as important is the moral message the civilized world is sending
It is bad enough that the international community has been silent
for so long about the civil war in Syria, which has claimed the lives of well
over 100,000 people.
But now that the Assad regime has crossed the
international redline, resorting to what Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday
called “the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable
people,” it can no longer sit back and watch developments unfold in
“Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more
serious scrutiny,” Kerry declared.
Kerry’s tough speech, which is seen as
preparing the ground for the use of force against Syria, is to be
The US and its allies must also be reminded, however, that
ultimately it is Iran that poses the most dangerous threat to the Middle East
and the world.
For the sake of all those who strive for peace and
stability in the region, they should confront Syria now – and then Iran.