A storm is brewing in the Middle East. One who has what it takes to wreak havoc in the region. And beyond. Because with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, most geopolitical and international legal certainties have finally dissolved.
Show strength, rely on military power, attack instead of negotiate – that seems to be the maxim for action today. Diplomacy was yesterday. Alliances are forged to keep the enemy from gaining strength.
This doctrine is commonplace in the Middle East, particularly in the ongoing conflict between Iran and Israel. But tempers are so heated that the quarrel between the arch-enemies harbors the danger of a fatal escalation. There is some evidence that the opponents are preparing for a military confrontation.
Just a few days ago, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that his country had been building an air defense system for a year. This is already in use. According to Gantz, the USA is leading the way. That should surprise few.
For the other pact partners. Apparently, Arab states like the United Emirates or Bahrain are also involved. Significantly, Gantz calls them “regional allies.” The aim of the alliance is also clearly stated: it is against Iran, its missiles and drones, i.e. the mullahs’ striving for power.
The defense alliance could even be upgraded soon. In three weeks, US President Joe Biden plans to travel to the Middle East. He is expected not only in Israel, but also in the difficult oil-rich partner Saudi Arabia. And it is by no means out of the question that the kingdom will declare on this occasion that it will be part of a joint air defense system.
For Israel, that would be a high-profile coup – and a strategic gain. There have long been informal agreements with the Saudi heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, on security issues. But to give the whole thing an official touch would send a clear message to Tehran.
Like the Jewish state, the crown prince feels harassed and threatened by Iran. His country is repeatedly attacked with drones sent by the Yemeni Houthis and presumably from Iran’s arsenal. A protective shield would therefore be of great benefit to the Saudis. Especially if they should soon be dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Despite all efforts, a new edition of the nuclear agreement with Tehran is in bad shape. Hardly anyone hopes that a deal will come about. One of the sticking points: the mullahs are demanding that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards be removed from the terrorist list – the Americans strictly reject this. No one trusts the other any more.
You were already on the home straight. At the beginning of the year, an agreement that would prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb and in return free the country from sanctions seemed ready to be signed. Then Russia invaded Ukraine. Moscow tied its approval of a new agreement with Tehran to demands that the West did not want to respond to. Since then, very little has happened in the negotiations in Vienna.
Those responsible in Jerusalem feel vindicated – they consider the talks a waste of time. Iran tricks and deceives, hides its real intentions. In other words, the West is being fooled by Tehran’s assertions that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.
In fact, it is doubtful that Iran’s actions are driven by friendly intentions. Syria, Yemen, Lebanon – Tehran is active as a troublemaker throughout the region. For Israel, therefore, there is no question: Iran must be shown its borders. And that is what the Jewish state is doing. A shadow war has been raging between the two countries for years. But even that goes further and further and becomes more and more dangerous.
Until recently, Israel mostly tried to contain the activities of the mullahs outside Iran. Especially in Syria. There, the air force repeatedly attacks Iranian targets, wanting to stop arms deliveries to the Lebanese Hezbollah, for example.
Recently, however, several members of the military and scientists, some of them high-ranking, have died in Iran itself. There is much to suggest that the Mossad was behind the deaths – and a new Israeli strategy.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has described the reversal as the “octopus doctrine”. Accordingly, for a long time the goal was to hit Iran’s nuclear program and put a stop to the military ambitions of the theocracy. Now go from targeting the octopus’ arms to targeting the head as well.
In other words, nobody should feel safe in Iran. As if to back this up, Israel recently held a large-scale maneuver. Attacks against targets in Iran were trained. Jerusalem wants to arm itself for emergencies. After all, the mullahs keep threatening to destroy the “Zionist entity”.
There’s a lot at stake for Joe Biden, too. The US President has to give priority to the Ukraine war. But he must not lose sight of the Middle East. There, too, he meets Vladimir Putin. The head of the Kremlin has made Russia a major power in the region and is successfully attempting to overtake America.
Therefore, Biden must make it clear to Tehran how closed the front against Iran is. That it would be a sign of common sense to enter into a new nuclear deal. Nobody knows whether Iran is amenable to such arguments. The mullahs have long since turned to Russia and China. The three regimes form a kind of autocratic alliance that wants to break the supposed hegemony of the West. Also in the Middle East.