UPDATE via AP: Iranian and Russian engineers began loading nuclear fuel into Iran’s first atomic power plant Saturday amid international concern that the Islamic Republic is seeking a nuclear weapon. State television showed what appeared to be fuel rods being loaded into the core of the reactor, which is on the shores of the Persian Gulf near the town of Bushehr. The plant is one of the first tangible results of Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which has been the target of increasingly tough international sanctions….
Amidst a very hard push on the right about Israel striking Iran, which was forwarded by Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent ramblings, good news comes today that the Obama administration has pushed back hard, convincing Israel the Iran is still at least a year away from going nuclear. That’s a concrete plus as we sit here looking out on what is coming in September.
With the partnership of Pres. Obama and Sect. Clinton, which is unmatched, the much anticipated news on talks was announced, though it’s getting drowned out by mosque mania. But before you think this is huge news, as it stands now it is more theater than anything else, which isn’t bad either. The trouble is that everyone is coming to Washington for different reasons, with no common denominator on which to begin.
Regardless of the lack of good faith that may come from the Netanyahu government, with the PM already having rejected the language of the Quartet statement, which David Ignatius mentions also, or skepticism from Abbas and the Palestinians, forging ahead is what the Obama administration must do, because this long after his Cairo speech, Pres. Obama hasn’t accomplished much of anything.
Meanwhile, looming in the near distance is the settlement agreement expiration, with no one knowing what will happen afterward or if Netanyahu will agree to extend it (even as settlements continue). With Obama in a weakened position domestically, and elections on the horizon, it’s not the strongest hand.
Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states — Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.
As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.
Pres. Obama needs this theater, which will come as his speech to the United Nations General Assembly nears.