Israel Expects U.S.-Iran Talks Under Obama

Israel would demand talks be conditioned on halting uranium enrichment, say gov't sources.

Israel expects the U.S. to initiate direct talks with Tehran if Senator Barack Obama is elected president, in which case a critical Israeli interest would be to condition any talks between the West and Iran on halting uranium enrichment, according to a senior government source.

The source said discussions have been underway for months between Israel's Foreign Ministry, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Security Council, the Mossad, the Defense Ministry and academic experts. The significance of the discussions is that they were coordinated by the foreign minister and Kadima chairwoman, prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni.

The discussions studied a number of scenarios between Iran and the West. According to one, following an Obama win, the new president will start a dialogue with Iran to pressure it to stop its nuclear program. Obama said in his first debate with Senator John McCain that the U.S. had to enter tough direct talks with the Iranians, and that attempts to isolate Tehran only speed up its progress toward nuclearization.

Israel has no knowledge at present that Obama intends to present pre-conditions to dialogue with the Iranians, which is of great concern to Jerusalem.

According to another scenario, after the U.S. elections, and perhaps even before them, Iran would announce its agreement to the plan for a way forward proposed by the six powers a few months ago. According to the plan, uranium enrichment and sanctions would end simultaneously and talks would begin within 45 days on complete suspension of enrichment in exchange for a package of incentives from the West. A senior government source who took part in the discussions said: "The evaluation in Israel is that these two scenarios are possible in the next six months." The source said that in the course of strategic planning it was made clear that "Israel would have to avoid a situation in which the international community entered into dialogue and real negotiations with Iran while giving up the condition of stopping enrichment, and that this had to be emphasized to the six powers."

Ahead of the annual evaluation by the Foreign Ministry held two weeks ago, a document was written on the subject of the scenarios. According to Channel 10, the document was not presented to a wide forum because of concern over leaks that would compromise international efforts against Iran.

Meanwhile, over the past two months the Foreign Ministry has put together a four-pronged plan for a new diplomatic campaign against Iran. The plan is intended to solve a series of conflicts and tensions between various functionaries in the Foreign Ministry that have impaired action vis-a-vis Iran.

The plan divides activities in Iran into four teams that will advise Israeli diplomatic missions worldwide. The team charged with diplomatic action against the nuclearization of Iran will consist primarily of personnel from the strategic wing of the Foreign Ministry and will cooperate with other bodies in the defense establishment. It will focus on increasing international pressure on Iran.

The team tasked with Iran's economic isolation will discuss divesting from Iran, cancelling deals, particularly on energy, boycotting Iranian banks and increasing monitoring of Iranian money in foreign banks.

Another team will work to isolate Tehran in areas other than the nuclear plan, highlighting issues of human rights, Iranian support for terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and organizing rallies during visits by senior Iranian officials.

A fourth team will deal with issues of public diplomacy - writing articles in leading newspapers around the world, conducting press briefings, engaging in public relations efforts against the Iranian regime on university campuses, and disseminating intelligence against Iran in the media.