In pressing for negotiated settlements to the Iranian nuclear dispute and the Syrian civil war, President Barack Obama is challenging the imposing lobbying, propaganda and financial clout of the new Saudi-Israeli alliance, with the future direction of U.S. foreign policy -- and geopolitical stability -- at stake.
Already, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pulling the strings of his media and congressional marionettes, creating opposition to Obama's diplomatic initiatives. Meanwhile, the Saudi monarchy has gone to unprecedented lengths to register its disapproval of Obama's peace initiatives, even rejecting a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Citing "a senior NATO decision maker," Mark Urban, diplomatic editor for BBC's "Newsnight," described "intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery." Urban also noted that "Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, 'the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.'" The Saudis also have made sounds about possibly acquiring their own nuclear bomb from Pakistan, which developed the Bomb during the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations with the help of Saudi financing.
Urban added that these warnings about the imminent Saudi possession of a nuclear weapon were emanating from Israel, possibly to add pressure on Obama to fall into line and join a military airstrike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
"It is Israeli information -- that Saudi Arabia is now ready to take delivery of finished warheads for its long-range missiles -- that informs some recent US and NATO intelligence reporting. Israel of course shares Saudi Arabia's motive in wanting to worry the US into containing Iran," Urban said, adding:
"Amos Yadlin ... told me by email that 'unlike other potential regional threats, the Saudi one is very credible and imminent.'"
After the BBC report, I was told by a source familiar with Mideast developments that this possibility of Saudi possession of a nuclear bomb -- and the overall truculence from the Saudi-Israeli alliance -- prompted a blunt response from President Obama, directed to Israeli President Shimon Peres and to Saudi King Abdullah, making clear that the United States would not tolerate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Obama's choice of recipients, I'm also told, was significant in that he appealed to the heads of state, going over the heads of Netanyahu and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the chief of Saudi intelligence who has been spearheading the collaboration with Israel on a variety of shared interests, including Iran, Syria and Egypt.
I was told the letters to Peres and King Abdullah could be viewed as a signal that the U.S. government sees the need for Netanyahu and Bandar to be replaced.
A Tougher Kerry
Obama's anger over Netanyahu's sabotage of U.S. diplomacy was reflected, too, in the toughening tone from Secretary of State John Kerry, who came under criticism last week for going too far in efforts to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Israelis and Saudis -- appearing obsequious when the White House wanted to project an image of forceful confidence.
So, in surprisingly blunt comments to Israeli and Palestinian journalists on Thursday, Kerry warned Israel about the consequences if it refused to recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians in peace talks that he is personally overseeing.
"The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos," Kerry said. "I mean, does Israel want a third intifada," a reference to two outbreaks of Palestinian violence in resistance to the decades of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
"If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that's been taking place on an international basis," Kerry added.
Kerry's more forceful tone, however, didn't help him salvage the latest round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Despite optimism that an interim deal was within reach in which Iran would suspend some of its nuclear development in exchange for some sanctions relief, the insistence from France on a harder line -- more in sync with Israel's demands -- prevented a sign-off on the accord.
Iran has consistently said that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and U.S. intelligence agencies agree that Iran has made no decision to build a nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, Netanyahu has threatened to bomb Iran if it doesn't capitulate on its right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.