Stable No More

Traditionally, American Presidents and policymakers have strived to create and maintain stability with their Middle East allies. Yet now with the Iran deal we have estranged our traditional allies while at the same time  trying to appease them. Multilateralism and diplomacy to a fault is the legacy of the Obama White House, under the guise of wishful thinking for reform and an embrace that will bring Iran back into the community of nations. Moreover, it highlights the incredible naïveté regarding Islamist forces and their acceptance by liberal democracies.

One of the main political-psychological barriers this White House has failed to internalize is Iran’s terror proxies; Islamic Republic has bankrolled them for decades. Instances, like the ship Karine A, captured January 3, 2002 which was carrying fifty or more tons of arms, its predecessor the Santorini, captured in May 2001, and the Calypso, apprehended during an attempt to smuggle arms in January 2001. All three of these shipments were linked to Hizballah illustrate the ongoing threat Iran presents to Israel and its Arab-Sunni neighbors. The continued flow of arms ships to Yemen also underscores how long a reach Iran has by supporting many of the Islamist groups in the Middle East.

At one of his many Iran news conferences President Obama claimed that “[E]ven with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran: its support of terrorism, its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.” In tandem, he has a set a sunset time to the arms and missile embargoes.

But John Kerry diminishes Iran’s ties to Hizbollah dismissing one of Israel’s ongoing consistent threats. Kerry stated “the notion that the $100 billion which Iran will obtain ‘is going to make all the difference in the world is just – it’s not true.’” Both statements are problematic to Israel on and illustrate the Administration’s shift from dismantling Iran’s nuclear program to containing it. Moreover, as the ties to Hizbullah were not seen within the prism of a nuclear threat the regime’s arming, financing and training were not included in the larger deal another sign that business will continue as usual.

One of the main catalysts for Israel’s Second Lebanon War in 2006 with Hezbollah – the Iranian proxy in the region –  the first Gulf War of 1991. After the gulf War Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah perceived a weaker Israel which was losing its deterrence. The mighty Israel of 1967 was, in their view, no longer. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (of all Israeli PM’s) who allowed Iraqi rockets to land in Israel, and in the process surrendering its security to the US and promising not to intervene militarily. While the US under President George Bush Sr. and Secretary of State James Baker vowed to protect Israel this decision signaled to Hezbollah clear Israel weakness and an opening for destroying the Jewish State.

The 2015 Iran Deal’s stakes are much higher than 1991. There is little question that conventional threats to Israel are being overshadowed by non-conventional and existential threats. These are also detrimental to the region at large. Israeli deterrence is more important than ever, created by the Israeli qualitative military edge, provided both can withstand US political pressure. Tellingly, Israelis across the board, from the Left, Right and Center, understand what is at stake. There is little disagreement within Israel about the implications of a nuclear Iran. The stakes are much higher for Israel and its new Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt regarding a course of action.

Beyond Israel’s military strength, there is its global standing. This has suffered repeated blows as it has opposed the US and Europe in order to underscore the flaws of the nuclear deal. It is remarkable that a terror state and terror financier like Iran has been able to endear itself to the current US administration over a longstanding ally such as Israel. Positively, there is more agreement between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors than with the White House, something that seems to have escaped the keen observers in the Obama administration. This alliance is not only a political marriage but one that inherently understands the great evil rooted in Iran and its tentacles in the region as well as the deep divide between Sunnis and Shias.

The time when we could point to the fact the Arab-Israeli conflict remained conventional is long gone; we are now on the heels of a conventional and non-conventional arms race, a prospect that should act as a wakeup call to all those who believe in the “merits” of the Iran deal.

About the Author
Asaf Romirowsky PhD, is the Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). Romirowsky is also a senior non-resident fellow at the BESA Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a Professor [Affiliate] at the University of Haifa.
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