One of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief points in her visit to the Middle East earlier this week was strongly reinforced by a report released Thursday by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United Nations group expressed its concern that Iran might be developing a nuclear warhead capacity.
Mrs. Clinton's trip had two basic goals -- to build support for further U.N. sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear aspirations and to urge Arab states to encourage the Palestinians and Israelis to revive a Middle East peace process.
It is not apparent that she achieved either, although the new IAEA report certainly should build support for new sanctions against Iran. The Persian Gulf states she used as a platform for the presentation of her views are bound by geography and, until now at least, by a lukewarm view of pressuring Iran to cease work on what it maintains is peaceful development of nuclear energy.
If it turns out that the Iranians are working on nuclear weapons, as the IAEA report suggests, the Arabs still are keenly aware that Israel is widely considered the only nation in the region to already have them. The Gulf states also sit near Iran and do much business with it. In part due to the economic sanctions already in place against Iran, its citizens carry out much commerce through Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Mrs. Clinton's three-day swing was not helped by the latest news reports in Israel and the Arab states on the assassination last month in Dubai of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior official of the Palestinian group Hamas. In the Middle East, it can be hard to determine who was behind the killing of a senior political figure since most have lethal enemies, among their own people and in other capitals. Thus it was with Mr. al-Mabhouh, who was linked by the Israelis to the killing of two of their soldiers in 1989.
On Thursday, Dubai's police chief said he was "99 percent" certain that the hit squad that killed him was directed by Mossad, the Israeli secret police. Six of the 11 suspected assassins carried false European passports containing the names of people with dual British and Israeli citizenship. Then on Friday, Hamas claimed that two ex-officers from the Palestinian rival organization Fatah were involved in the assassination.
Regardless of who was responsible, the fallout only made the Clinton mission more difficult. Dubai, one of the states that has been relatively practical in its approach to Israel, is not likely to be helpful to the United States at the moment.
The Middle East peace process remains to be restarted. It won't be helped by Israel's possible role in the death of Mr. al-Mabhouh in Dubai or the fact that Iran's nuclear program has raised new IAEA suspicions. If nothing else, the IAEA report may help to persuade U.N. Security Council members Russia, which has been ambivalent on the subject, and China, which has opposed further sanctions, that Iran should be prevented from achieving a nuclear weapons capacity.