If Iran, with all its bloody and sectarian history in the Middle East, all its appalling acts of barbarism and constant conspiracies, not to mention the fervent antipathy between Pan-Arabism and Persian nationalism, and the long lasting effects of the theological rift between the Shiite and the Sunni camps, they still somehow managed to control four Arab nations and wield a powerful influence over the Middle Eastern politics, building a crescent-shaped belt around the Arabian peninsula spanning from Lebanon, Syria and Bahrain, to Yemen and finally Gaza strip.
If Iran succeeded, over a span of approximately two decades, in achieving such spiritual authority and military superiority and political influence over wealthy and numerous Arab states who are in a long-standing alliance with the U.S., the strongest superpower in modern times, why Israel doesn’t try and turn the tide, to influence that region with similar method—by identifying a common interest with others and building confidence through an organized civil activism on the ground, one that is public and not secretive, legitimate and not extrajudicial?
It’s true that Iran has a leverage over Israel, that is, the Shiite Arab entities who are dwelling in those Arab lands, particularly in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen, but they still constitute minorities if regarded as part of the whole population of the MENA region. Israelis of Arab descent, that Israel could have engaged in such endeavor, have long since been forced to leave their homelands. However, Israel could co-opt a policy that enables the Hebrew state to create an effective and legal channel of communication with the many resentful ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East who have endured centuries of persecution and discrimination by the orthodox Muslim majorities, like Sufis and Bahais for instance, and in modern times by the exclusionist nature of the pan-Arab enterprise, like the Amazigh in North Africa, especially in Algeria and Tunisia and the Kurds in Syria and Iraq.
However, there is a psychological barrier that is still keeping Israel from imposing itself as a major player in Middle Eastern politics, and that barrier should be broken through. We have the Russian empire, the Persian empire and the new Ottomans, all have successfully established cultural and military strongholds in the Arab heartlands; why not Israel who is historically and geopolitically more entitled to a leading role in that region of the world?
Arabs believe in power more than Allah. Although they usually give the false impression that they are the most religious nations of the globe. But their religiousness, in its essence, is based on survival and hedonistic instincts; it’s based on their fear from Allah, the Victor, the all-powerful, and not for His love; they fear punishment and long for heavenly sexual promises; they worship Allah for his invincibility and for the expected sensual reward.
In classical antiquity, as pagans, they had worshipped many powerful gods, even goddesses, Al-Lat, Al-‘Uzza, or Manāt. When those gods became conspicuously weak they have converted to Islam with its new element of power.
In modern time when secular military regimes were ostensibly strong, boasting about their military capabilities, Arabs from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east fell under the spell of Gamal Abdel Nasser and his chauvinist ideology. When the humiliating defeat of 1967 burst upon them, they found their new idol in Islamism, and that one knew how to extend its lifespan over the years: The Islamic revolution in 1979, the victorious Afghanistan war against the Soviet, the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the Islamic muqawama in Gaza and Lebanon, the September 11 attacks, the Muslim Brotherhood activism in the post-Arab Spring, the revival of Jihad in Syria, Libya and Yemen, a rich Islamist Emirate of Qatar that is able to exert strong influence inside the Beltway, the emergence of an Islamist Turkey with a powerful, charismatic Islamist leadership … They are all episodes of power that consolidate the Arab loyalty to their brazen Islamist God. Whether it was an individual, a sacred Mullah like Khomeini, a triumphant terrorist like Bin laden, a pan-Arab anti-Semite like Kais Saied of Tunisia, or a wealthy ideology like Wahhabism, everything revolves around the notion of who has the power.
Ibn khaldun in his Almuqadima asserted that “The vanquished always seek to imitate their victors in their dress, insignia, belief and other customs and usages. This is because men are always inclined to attribute perfection to those who have defeated and subjugated them … Hence comes a belief that such an imitation will remove the causes of defeat. And in this a careful observer will mark a sign of inferiority....”
In the rise and fall of American power in the Middle East, Israel should emerge as the winner and not the loser; for all the political assets and military positions of the withdrawing superpower ought to be inherited by Israel and not by some rogue states as the Russia of Putin or the Iran of the ayatollah or the sultanate of Erdogan.
The Arab despots today are extremely worried, unbalanced, feeling abandoned, and willing to strike deals with any competent military force that can provide them with immunity and protection against internal and external threats. All the willing signs, positive statements, diplomatic activities of the Arab sovereigns in recent years showed that Israel with little pressure from the U.S. could have indeed established so far one or two military bases in the Arabian peninsula, and opened one or two influential media networks in Cairo, Dubai or Amman to countermeasure the anti-Jewish propaganda hate machine that has been operating freely for so long with total impunity. But that didn’t happen.
Their uncertainties are growing gradually bigger and bigger against a more and more unreliable America, against a president whose actions are constantly bursting their bubble on how comfortable security is a thing of the past. So to survive, lately, Saudi Arabia instinctively began to look for other alternatives; toward Russia, surely a premier choice. Spending time in wording love letters to Tehran as they try humiliatingly to mend fences with the arrogant Islamic Republic; who knows, maybe the next step will be Turkey. Moreover, the UAE is now surprisingly trying to placate Tehran by releasing $700 million in previously frozen funds to Iran, in an attempt to improve relations between the two countries. “The Emiratis have… understood that Western countries and Saudi Arabia cannot provide the [UAE] with security in the current circumstances,” Akbar Torki MP told Iranian media. “Financial relations with Iran have improved and some Iranian exchange offices in Dubai have resumed activity.”
Israel should strike while the iron is hot, and time is running out.