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April 3/09. US President Barack Obama was caught on camera by journalists on Wednesday bowing in deference to Saudi King Abdullah as he greeted him at the opening of the G20 meeting in London, prior to being photographed with British royalty.

Obama later expressed support for the 2002 Saudi Plan in his meeting with the Saudi monarch. The two also discussed global economic issues and terrorism.

The meeting between Obama and Abdullah was the first face-to-face talk between the two. The meeting created a storm of debate, primarily among American conservatives, when pictures and a video were released that appeared to show Obama bowing to the Saudi monarch at the G20 photo-op.

Obama reportedly expressed support for the 2002 Saudi Initiative upon winning the presidential election in November of 2008.

In his first meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Obama had been quoted as saying of the plan, “The Israelis would be crazy not to support this initiative.”

In January of 2009, Saudi officials warned that the U.S. would need to “drastically revise” its Middle East policy, particularly towards Israel, if it wanted to maintain influence in the region.

"If the U.S. wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact – especially its 'special relationship' with Saudi Arabia – it will have to drastically revise its policies vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine,” former Saudi ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal said at the time.

Turki referred to the Middle East policy of former U.S. President George Bush as “sickening,” and accused America of “contributing to the slaughter of innocents” by supporting Israel.

Bush expressed strong support for the creation of a PA state, but supported the 2003 Road Map initiative over the Saudi Plan. The Road Map plan calls for the Israel-PA negotiations process to take place in stages, with Israel dismantling Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria only after the PA begins to fight terrorism.

The Saudi Plan calls on Israel to cede Gaza and all land east of the 1949 armistice line, including much of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, to the Palestinian Authority. Israel would also be required to cede the strategic Golan Heights region to Syria.

In addition, the plan requires Israel to release all terrorists currently in its prisons, and to offer citizenship to millions of foreign Arabs who say they are descended from Arabs who fled pre-state Israel during the War of Independence.

In exchange, Arab states would normalize their ties with the Jewish State.

In Israel, the plan has met with little support. Enacting the plan would force roughly 600,000 Israelis from their homes. In addition, senior defense officials have warned that the plan would compromise Israel's security.






Ap 4/09.  Only two weeks ago, Israel's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, then visiting Washington, was denied interviews with US defense secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the US chiefs of staff Adm. Mike Mullen. He cut short his visit after seeing national security adviser Gen. James Jones and Iran envoy Dennis Ross, lesser lights in terms of their direct influence on President Barack Obama.

Since then, the US president has decided the snub was ill-judged.

During 2008 and up until his exit from the White House, George W. Bush found Ashkenazi useful for conveying to the former PM, Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak his administration's strong objections to an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear sites. The US effort to hold Israel's hand brought Mullen and an array of top US generals calling at the chief of staff's Tel Aviv headquarters almost every ten days in the last months of 2008.

Mullen wanted to keep this effort afloat, but president Obama thought otherwise, which is why Ashkenazi was so coolly received in Washington in mid-March.

However, the inception of Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister with Barak held over at defense occasioned a spate of declarations which worried the new administration: Netanyahu declared at his swearing-in last Tuesday that if American sanctions and diplomacy fail, Israel will be forced to take action against Iran's nuclear weapon drive and time was running out. His words were echoed by Barak.

Obama therefore decided to revive the Ashkenazi track, while he was still abroad at the G20 in London and the NATO summit at Strasbourg, and before visiting Istanbul next week. He feared that Israel might upset his broad strategic applecart which hinges on the co-option of Iran as its primary hinge.

Ashkenazi was therefore invited to Strasbourg to carry some more bad news to his government, i.e. that the Obama administration wants Iran as its key military and intelligence partner for resolving America's Afghanistan-Pakistan (known now as "Afgpak") predicament. The shape of this alliance lacks final form; backdoor US-Iranian meetings at various levels are in progress at different venues to determine how far Tehran is willing to go. But the US president has set his course.

The high points of the proposed collaboration were first revealed exclusively by DEBKA-Weekly 390 of March 27 and 391 of April 3.

Its impact was sensed at the NATO summit in Strasbourg.

Aside from UK premier Gordon Brown, NATO leaders by and large refused the US president's appeal for more troops to fight in Afghanistan. German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Obama there was no point in sending reinforcements to Afghanistan if US troops were on their way out, especially after Washington had opted for an "Iranian solution" for the conflict without reference to Berlin or Paris.

The Obama administration has a bitter pill for Israel to swallow for the sake of progress toward a strategic collaboration with Tehran on Afghanistan and Pakistan. It cuts close to the bone in terms of Israel's security and international standing:

1. Washington will not brook any unilateral Israeli military action that might upset US-Iranian moves towards cooperation in the Afgpak Arena.

2. Washington will apply all its resources to obstruct such action.

3. It will not be enough for Israel to stand idle as Iran develops a nuclear bomb. The Obama administration also has fish to fry with Taliban and is bent on an urgent breakthrough in Israel-Arab peacemaking for dividends relevant to this arena too.

Israel can therefore expect to be squeezed hard for sweeping concessions to Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians in order to enhance America's hand on both these tracks.

4. This will bring Jerusalem's Arab opponents to the negotiating table with loaded dice and no bar to treating Israel as the weak party.

The tidings Ashkenazi brings back to Jerusalem from Strasbourg will not be news because Israel officials have been aware of the state of play between Obama and Tehran for some weeks. The only question is how Adm. Mullen packaged his briefing: Did he offer the Israeli chief of staff the chance of military coordination with the United States alongside its evolving pact with Iran? Or simply outline the new situation as a take-it or leave-it proposition?



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