A harbinger of things to come? Just a day after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency, Israeli foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has expressed her reservations about Obama’s expected readiness to launch direct talks with Tehran. Clearly, one must wait and see what the new administration will do, come January. But it does not augur well that Israel’s foreign minister (and potentially Israel’s next prime minister) would so openly and publicly disagree with a U.S. Administration. Obama’s reported views on Iran have already been robustly criticized by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for being naive–and though the French have denied reports to the this effect, it sounds all too plausible that Paris would feel concerned about the incoming U.S. Iran policy. After all, even during the Bush presidency, French intelligence had a more pessimistic assessment of Iran’s intentions and capabilities than their U.S. counterparts.
So what does this mean? Clearly, right now it is all speculation, since campaign remarks and statements will have to contend with reality once the new administration takes power. But Iran’s nuclear ambitions are rightly seen as an existential threat in Jerusalem–and are considered to be a serious strategic threat for Europe in Paris. A U.S. U-turn would not only have serious repercussions for the international community’s ability to pressure Iran–it would also lead, very early on in Obama’s presidency, to serious tensions with U.S. strategic partners.