Robert Kaplan has an excellent essay in the Atlantic on the current Gaza situation. It is the clearest elucidation of Western interests I have come across since Israel launched its air offensive on December 27, and it goes straight to the heart of the matter:
Our own diplomacy with Iran now rests on whether or not Israel succeeds. We need to create leverage before we can negotiate with the clerical regime, and that leverage can only come from an Israeli moral victory-one that leaves Hamas sufficiently reeling to scare even the pro-Iranian Syrians from coming to its aid. In defense of its own territorial integrity, Israel has, in effect, launched the war on the Iranian empire that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, can only have contemplated.
As Kaplan goes on to say,
now that Israel has launched a war, we need it to succeed, rather than be compromised by the kind of ceasefire that allows Hamas to regroup. If that happens, our leverage with Iran will be further reduced, with negotiations yielding little. But once Israel does succeed, then we will need to bear down on it hard, in the service of negotiations with both Arabs and Iranians. If he is smart, President-elect Barack Obama will now be quietly rooting for Israel.
Whether President-elect Obama’s silence is a sign that he read (and agreed with) Kaplan’s article remains to be seen. But clearly, the combined interests of Europe, the United States, and the so-called moderate Arab regimes (Egypt, Jordan, and the the Arab states of the Gulf) depend upon Israel bloodying Iran’s nose. Let’s hope this clarity is not missed in the corridors of power, and that Israel will get enough time — from its allies and grudging supporters — to finish the job.