The Bush administration has begun mobilizing support for a third U.N. resolution that would impose tougher sanctions against Iran, as the top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad said Wednesday that one of the biggest surprises in Iraq has been the depth of Iran’s intervention.
Iran is increasingly the backdrop in discussions about the future of Iraq, evident in congressional testimony this week by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and in warnings from senior administration officials. In his speech to the nation tonight, President Bush is also expected to cite Iran’s role in the region as justification for continued U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
In part because of Iran’s role in Iraq, Washington is preparing to sanction Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards in charge of Iran’s covert operations.
In a further reflection of the tensions between the two countries, the United States will host top officials from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany on Sept. 21 for talks on punitive measures in a new U.N. resolution following Tehran’s failure to suspend uranium enrichment.
Israeli troops enter central Gaza Strip
Israeli ground troops entered the central Gaza Strip Wednesday night, a day after rocket fire from the Palestinian territory wounded dozens of Israeli soldiers. But the military described the incursion as routine and said it was not part of a large-scale mission.
Early Tuesday morning, a Palestinian rocket from Gaza struck an army base in Israel just north of Gaza and wounded 40 soldiers as they slept in their tents. One soldier was in critical condition.
But Israel has ruled out a large-scale military retaliation, a decision some Israelis questioned.
Jiddah, Saudi Arabia
Saudis may skip peace conference
Saudi Arabia will probably skip a Mideast peace conference called by President Bush if it doesn’t tackle substantive issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, the kingdom’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Saud al-Faisal’s remarks echoed the skepticism of other Arab leaders over a meeting Washington has billed as a major step forward but whose agenda and participants remain unknown.
“The kingdom sees no benefit in any peace meeting or conference if it is not comprehensive and if it doesn’t tackle major issues,” al-Faisal said. “If the conference doesn’t provide these things, then the kingdom’s participation is doubtful.”
Diplomats and analysts say the conference, which Bush called for in July, presents the region with the first serious opportunity for peace in years. They warn that if the conference collapses, new violence may erupt and faith in negotiations would dissipate.