Recent weeks have seen some extraordinary developments in the Middle East. It can be easy to feel whiplash at times like these, but in hopes of giving you a clear understanding of these events, I want to give a short rundown of these developments and give an explanation as to why they are so important.
After Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, the Israeli military carried out a massive series of strikes on Iranian targets within Syria. According to the New York Times, “Israeli fighter jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria overnight, Israeli officials said, following soon after what the Israeli military described as an unsuccessful rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights.” For the first time, Israeli and Iranian forces are directly engaging with one another. They are not hitting one another’s proxies any more, they are launching direct military assaults on Iranian and Israeli military installments. The Iranians targeted Israeli armed forces in the Golan Heights and the Israelis targeted dozens of military installments that the Iranians have built up over years of fighting in Syria.
The Israelis had already destroyed a massive military installation a few weeks ago in which 11 Iranian military personnel died; the only thing different this time is the number of targets and the fact that the Iranians actually responded this time. The Israelis have now shown that they are perfectly willing to kill Iranian soldiers and to wage massive military strikes against facilities owned, run, and created by the Iranian government. As Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, said “If there is rain on our side, there will be a flood on their side.” Israel is prepared to go all the way because it takes for granted the fact that America will back them all the way, no matter what. And thus far, we have. The Trump administration just blamed the Iranians for waging a military response to this Israeli attack. Apparently, in the administration’s view, Iran was just supposed to not respond to the umpteenth attack by Israel. Why exactly? What leverage over them do we have now? Now that we have walked away from the Iran deal and re-imposed sanctions, why would they continue their policy of restraint?
Secondly, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, accepted Israel’s right to “have their own land” and, just last week, told the Palestinians to “shut up” and take whatever deal the Israelis offered them. The importance of this shift cannot be under rated. It means that the Saudis are formally moving away from any connections to the Arab world and moving fully to the side of the West and Israel. Saudi Arabia wants to be the China of the Middle East. It wants to be an advanced, modern, secularized oligarchy, a country that is allowed to be a regional power house and stay undemocratic because they have conceded to the demands of the West to liberalize their approach towards women, become more accepting of homosexuals, and create modern cosmopolitan cities in which it is easy for rootless cosmopolitans carry out their merchant money-lending operations. The Saudis have largely done this, thus they can now become formal members of the Western alliance and fully integrated into the global markets. An Israeli / Saudi alliance would be a major Middle Eastern alliance and it would reshape the map of the Middle East.
These two developments, combined with the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal, signal a major shift in the geo-political fight over the Middle East and Syria in particular. As recently as a year ago, it seemed as if the Russia, Iran, Syrian alliance held all of the cards in Syria. Now, that is not so clear. To Israel, Iran, and Syria, Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal was a clear signal that America was back to being on a neocon posture. America has, in the last several decades, had an unwavering support for Israel. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have fervently stated their dedication to the state of Israel, but there is a big difference between having a president who is somewhat rational about Israel and is willing to take a somewhat neutral policy in the Middle East by negotiating with the Iranians, like Obama, and a president who is surrounded by neocon war mongers, like Trump. The Israelis know that they now have more room to take military action because of who sits in the White House and what stances he has taken. The Israelis have certainly carried out strikes against Iranian targets before but the massive strike that the Israelis carried out this week is clearly a response to Trump’s decision on the Iran deal.
These developments have seriously increased the chances of war with Iran. The Israeli pit bull, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been let off of his chain and he is trying his best to provoke the Iranians into bombing him directly. Netanyahu now sees an opportunity to finally take out the one Middle Eastern enemy that he has not been able to get the United States to take out for him. Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, all seen as threats by Israel, have all either been taken out or crippled. Regimes that the Israeli government doesn’t like either get taken out or are plunged into such chaos that they are no longer a threat to Israel.
Israel perceives stability for other nations in the Middle East to be an existential threat to the Jewish state. Therefore a stable, modernized country like Iran is a serious threat to Israel because it has the ability to resist Israeli designs for the region. The current Israeli regime views the whole of the Middle East as more or less an Israeli back yard, a piece of land that Israel should be able to do whatever it likes with. Iran stands in the way of total Israeli domination of the Middle East. It is Iranian troops in Syria that have bolstered the Assad regime. It is Iranian-backed rebels in the form of Hezbollah, that attack and kill IDF forces on the ground. Iran is the linchpin. The destruction of Iranian power in the region is the primary foreign policy goal of the Israeli state. So the question you should be asking yourself is, why is it also our primary foreign policy priority? Why has the US government spent untold foreign policy capital either trying to make a deal with the Iranians or trying to destroy them? Because American foreign policy is just an adjunct of Israeli foreign policy at this point. The American military is just an auxiliary force of the Israeli military. And for those American war planners who don’t care about Israel, Iran is an ally of Russia. So they can all pretend as if this were “The Hunt For Red October”, which is really what everyone in the CIA day dreams about. Israel is no longer under any kind of control, expectations of normalcy would be a mistake.