Patrick Seale: President George W Bush is coming under enormous pressure from Israel - and from Israel's neoconservative friends inside and outside the US administration - to harden still further his stance toward Iran. They want the American president to commit himself to bombing Iran if it does not give up its program of uranium enrichment - and to issue a clear ultimatum to Tehran that he is prepared to do so. They argue that mere rhetoric - such as Bush's recent diatribe, in which he compared Iran to al-Qaeda - is not enough, and might even be counter-productive, as it might encourage the Iranians to think that America's bark is worse than its bite.
Hard-liners in Israel and the United States believe that only military action, or the credible threat of it, will now prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, with all that this would mean in terms of Israel's security and the balance of power in the strategically vital Middle East.
Fears that Bush might succumb to this Israeli and neoconservative pressure is beginning to cause serious alarm in Moscow, Beijing, Berlin, Paris, Rome and other world capitals where, as if to urge caution on Washington, political leaders are increasingly speaking out in favor of dialogue with Tehran and against the use of military force.
The quickening international debate over Iran's nuclear activities comes at a difficult time for Israel, where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is fighting for his political life and for that of his ruling Kadima-Labor coalition.
The Iran problem is causing particular concern because it raises fundamental questions about the continued validity of the security doctrine Israel has forged over the past half century. A central plank of this doctrine is that, to be safe, Israel must dominate the region militarily and be stronger than any possible Arab or Muslim coalition.