‘Obama prepared to strike Iran’

IRAN is on its “last chance” before US President Barack Obama orders a military strike on its nuclear facilities, prominent Middle East thinker Dr Steven Rosen said in Sydney this week.

And Obama’s forthcoming visit to Israel will precede a renewed push for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum predicted at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) journalist briefing.

Rosen said the Iranian issue was coming to its “endgame”.

“I make to you the controversial prediction that Barack Obama is thinking seriously about a military strike on Iran, and would prefer that the United States do it than Israel do it,” he said.

“It’s no secret that there’s a lack of trust between [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Obama.

“I think that what we are witnessing [with Obama’s Israel trip] is, among other things, an effort by Obama to persuade Netanyahu to leave this problem to him.”

The other purpose of the visit, Rosen said, would be to discuss the peace process.

“They [the US government] have been steering the press away from the theory that this visit of Obama to Jerusalem is primarily about the Palestinians,” he said.

Explaining that this was to avoid raising expectations, Rosen predicted there would be a “serious effort” at a resumption of talks.

“What I’m predicting is there will be Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and those negotiations will be about a temporary border of a Palestinian state that will be a member of the United Nations,” he said.

“But that will not be a conflict-ending agreement that will resolve all outstanding questions, many of the most difficult and thorniest questions will be left for the stage after that.”

Rosen also spoke to The AJN about his work in taking on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) definition of “refugee”.

Currently, descendants of Arabs who lived in the British Mandate of Palestine between 1946 and 1948 are entitled to apply for refugee status.

“In practice, that [definition] is used by no-one else in the world and nowhere else in the world,” he said.

He said the many Western countries who help fund UNRWA were “in effect enablers that have made it possible for UNRWA to follow practices that actually harm peace by artificially inflating the number of imaginary refugees and moving any possibility of a solution ever further away”.

“America has its own definitions of what is a refugee … and those definitions of refugee are much stricter,” he said.

“And so we are pushing legislation in America that will bring American UNRWA policy into conformity with America’s own refugee policy.”

GARETH NARUNSKY

The director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum, Dr Steven Rosen, in Sydney this week. Photo: Henry Benjamin.