Anne Penketh: 'Coalition of the Frightened' grows ever more alarmed

World Focus

Share
Related Topics

The Israelis refer to them disparagingly as the "coalition of the frightened". They are the Arab nations whose leaders are strong US allies and they are afraid of a nuclear Iran.

As Iran has proceeded apace with its uranium enrichment programme that provides a possible pathway towards a nuclear weapon, the Arab states in the region have become increasingly alarmed. Core American allies such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be watching President Obama's moves with close interest in case the geopolitical map is shaken up and rearranged, with Iran at its centre.

American policy under George Bush has already strengthened Iran as an unintended consequence of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who sought to build up his own arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to protect himself from the Persians at the gate.

You can be sure that the Arab leaders will be warning the new US administration against taking any actions that could reinforce a Shia Muslim regional superpower with a taste for independence and revolution. The Sunni Muslim Arab states are not alone in voicing concerns about a possibly nuclear-armed Iran – despite Iranian claims that its intentions are purely peaceful – and have not been standing idly by. Egypt, which like Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been talking about stepping up its nuclear programme, as has Turkey. The Bush administration in its final days signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the United Arab Emirates, intended to help the Gulf monarchy press ahead with nuclear power over the next few years.

Some analysts have seen the moves as the beginning of a nuclear arms race that could spread across the Middle East.

All the signs are so far that President Obama will tread carefully. At his news conference on Monday, he stuck to generalities and has not yet named an Iran envoy who would oversee the direct talks between the two states which have not had diplomatic relations for 30 years. Dennis Ross, who has been tipped in Washington as the most likely contender to deliver the Obama administration's "tough, direct" diplomacy, is apparently mired in turf battles linked to his brief.

It could be that Mr Obama will wait until after the Iranian elections in June, which might produce a more amenable President than the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before laying out his Iran policy in detail. But European officials are hopeful that, now the Bush administration has gone and taken with it the threat of regime change in Tehran, the Iranians might be open to a face-saving accommodation that would let them back down with dignity.

Then again, as an America scholar put it yesterday, "a Bush policy with a kinder, gentler face will go nowhere".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album