Concerns in the Middle East about what exactly the United States has in mind for Iran have grown in recent months, partly because of statements from top administration officials about a possible new approach for dealing with Iran's nuclear aspirations. If the administration intended word of the plan to act as a trial balloon in the Middle East, it is clear that regional players have popped the balloon and sent it hissing to the ground.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heightened the worries during a recent visit to Thailand, when she again spoke of a concept she had raised during one of the presidential debates with then-candidate Barack Obama back in April 2008. The idea of a protective "nuclear umbrella" extended by the U.S. to safeguard countries that could be threatened by Iran sounds, on its face, like it should comfort nations falling in the cooling shade of the umbrella. In reality, the prospect only increased growing fears that the Obama administration is gradually coming to accept that the West will fail in its efforts to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons.
When Washington offers to protect its friends from a nuclear Iran, its friends say what they really want is for Washington to make sure Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons in the first place.