The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, January 07, 2019

An Embrace

The foreign policy "Team of 2s" from the previous administration (i.e., Obama, Clinton, Kerry and their minions) professed to want to contain Iran and its hegemonic actions throughout the Middle East. Iran was developing nuclear capability (and still are), building medium and potentially long range missiles (and they still are), fomenting unrest in places like Yemen and Somalia (and they still are), supporting Islamic terror organizations like Hamas and Hezballah against our ally Israel (and they still are). So to stop all this, Obama's Team of 2s established a "deal" with Iran that did nothing to stop it and for icing on the cake, gave the mad mullahs $150 billion as a sweetener. Chants of "Death to America" did not abate.

Enter Donald Trump. For almost two years Trump's foreign policy team has been working to reign in Iran, destabilize their leadership and otherwise cripple their hegemonic intent. It's been a slog, but Trump & company have rejected Obama's "deal" to the horror of Democrats and a few establishment Republicans, reapplied sanctions, and otherwise rejected the mad mullahs. Although nothing of substance has yet been accomplished, a few very good things are happening. Iran has begun to suffer economic pain due to reapplied sanctions, major foreign companies are pulling out of the country, and most important, there's the potential for a quiet alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran.

For the Left along with other members of the four constituencies, an Israeli-Saudi alliance is somehow anathema, possibly because that's the intelligent tack that Obama's Team of 2s chose not to take. Why else has their been a concerted effort to demonize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the only Saudi ruler who has the courage to make such a bold move with Israel? Parenthetically, the Left in Israel is working overtime to unseat Netanyahu via a series of investigations—sound familiar?

But the Trump foreign policy team slogs forward. The Wall Street Journal comments:
A Netanyahu-Mohammed meeting would be a capstone of the Trump administration’s effort to isolate and contain Iran. The so-called Arab Street’s indifference to the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem is said to have given the crown prince the confidence to take his relationship with Israel public at the right time. On a more political level, it surely would divert public and media attention from problems currently besetting each of the three leaders involved.

For President Trump, it would be a respite from arguments over the government shutdown and his abrupt decision to withdraw from Syria. For Mr. Netanyahu, facing domestic political problems and a new election, it would be a dramatic breakthrough on the order of Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Jerusalem. And for Crown Prince Mohammed, it could restore some of his international luster, tarnished by the Khashoggi murder (in which the Saudis insist the crown prince had no involvement).

Such a meeting would offer only upsides for Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu. For Crown Prince Mohammed it would entail some risk. Openly cooperating with Israel without resolving the future of Jerusalem and its Islamic holy sites surely would provoke opposition from religious Saudis, though only sotto voce given the crown prince’s severe repression of domestic opponents. On balance it would appear he has achieved an international success without domestic repercussion.

For two years Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has worked to unite Israel and Saudi Arabia in a Mideast peace deal, ideally including full diplomatic relations. It isn’t clear the two countries are ready to go that far, but it does seem likely they are ready to leapfrog the intractable Palestinian issue and publicly cooperate with the U.S. to bring Iran to heel. Tehran’s growing influence in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and its intention to possess missiles that could reach the U.S., raises new alarms that militate in favor of a public Saudi-Israeli embrace.
No one knows if any of this will actually happen, but Trump has set the stage for an epic accomplishment that will benefit many Arab states, Israel, and the United States. At the same time, it will hurt Iran. If an Israeli-Saudi alliance comes to pass, it's just another example of an administration with a coarse and bombastic leader that is accomplishing significant things. If you look at substance, the Trump administration has accomplished more in the Middle East in two years than the previous administration accomplished in eight.