#AIPAC2013 conference opens with Big Question: What is the Iran Endgame, and will it happen in 2013?

Israeli Ambassador Oren asks AIPAC conference, Imagine if Iran had that nuclear weapon. What is the price of inaction?”

Israeli Ambassador Oren asks AIPAC conference, Imagine if Iran had that nuclear weapon. What is the price of inaction?”

>> UPDATE: Barak: When We Say All Options Are on the Table, We Mean It

>> VIDEO: Fascinating interview with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren by Susan Page of USA Today

The annual Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee kicked off Sunday morning in Washington, D.C.. Some 13,000 pro-Israel activists are on hand, and the #1 issue on their mind is “the Iran endgame.” The plot in the Middle East is thickening. The question is: How does this story end?

It’s the right question, and one I plan to discuss extensively as I kick off a media tour for the release of Damascus Countdown on Tuesday.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told the AIPAC delegates that there is a small window for diplomacy to still work, but it is closing. “Imagine if Iran had that nuclear weapon. What is the price of inaction?” he asked.

“It’s time to go to an endgame,” Ambassador Dennis Ross, who used to serve as President Obama’s senior advisor on Iran policy, told the conference delegates. “Iranians have been playing the rope-a-dope strategy….If the Iranians don’t respond, then maybe the position of the P5+1 has to be […] alright, we are beginning to lose patience.”

“I worry about what I see in the papers,” said Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush. “It appears to me we are negotiating with ourselves. We see no concessions with Iran….The goal of sanctions is to prevent them from getting closer to a nuclear weapons capability, and we are failing to do that.”

Could this lead to an endgame that means war in 2013? Some Mideast experts believe so.

“With these contradictory factors pushing and pulling at each other on Capitol Hill, can anyone conclude with full confidence that 2013 will be a decisive year with Iran?” asks the Times of Israel. “Indeed, many leading voices on the issue, including both Ross and Abrams themselves, have previously stated that 2013 will indeed find either the US or Israel attacking Iran military, should diplomacy fail.”

Other experts, however, are coming to the exact opposite view.

“The notion that they are somehow inexorably drawing towards military action is wrongheaded,” said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser on Middle East issues to six secretaries of state between 1988 and 2003, in an interview on Saturday with the Times of Israel. “This will be the year of no decision.”

“This is due to three key factors, Miller argues: Israel’s awareness of the risks of a strike, Iran’s own determination to avoid a military strike, and President Obama’s wariness of potential complications arising from war with Iran,” notes the Times. “Miller, a leading Middle East expert in Washington, said in an interview on Sunday: ‘Even though I suspect [President] Obama is prepared to act because he does not want to be the first US president to preside over Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, that decision will be a long one.’ When combined with Israel’s reticence and Iran’s ‘Tom and Jerry game’ on negotiations, ‘These three self-reinforcing realities [… ] will combine to make much of 2013 a year of indecision when it comes to the question of peace or war.'”

Ambassador Oren called for more outreach by Jewish, pro-Israel leaders to churches, including to Black and Latino Christians.

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