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Analysis: The Iranian Veto on Mideast Peace

Council on Foreign Relations

January 8, 2009
Author: Greg Bruno

In the political calculus driving Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza, Iranian ambition has emerged as a critical--if not always clearly defined--variable. In Washington, President Bush has supported Israel's strike as necessary self-defense, though some analysts believe an Israeli defeat by Iran-supported Hamas would embolden Tehran and weaken prospects for U.S. diplomacy in the region. And while Israel publicly stresses the need to tackle Hamas rocket fire, analysts, including CFR's Steven A. Cook, note Israel's desire to reassert its dominance following the disastrous 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Launching its attack in the final hours of the reliably pro-Israeli Bush administration, writes CFR Senior Fellow Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, is no coincidence, either.

Iran's mullahs, meanwhile, have followed up the rearmament of Hezbollah by demonstrating an interest in influencing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. Hours after Israel launched "Operation Cast Lead" on Hamas targets, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, blasted the "horrific atrocity of the Zionist regime," lashed out at the Bush administration for "complicity in the large crime," brushed aside European governments for "their indifference," and chastised the "silence" of Arab regimes--Egypt and Jordan chief among them. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also weighed in (IRNA), and an Iranian general has called for an oil embargo against the West (Straits Times) to protest Israeli action. As the Wall Street Journal observes, attention on Gaza "could become a convenient distraction" for Iranian leaders besieged by worsening economic news at home.

Yet parsing Iran's broader goals--and discerning its ability to implement them--remain points of departure in foreign policy circles. Some analysts see a clear connection between Israel and Iran in Gaza.

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