15 September 2020
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
At the White House yesterday, representatives of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed a treaty on normalizing relations. Whether this counts as a peace treaty is hard to say as one can find no record of UAE or Bahraini troops ever fighting Israeli soldiers. Nevertheless, the deal is important because it moves Israel more clearly into the Sunni Arab camp in the regional cold war with Shi'ite Iran. As usual, the big losers are the Palestinians, but the Palestinian Authority has been politically irrelevant in the region for some time.
When Egypt signed a treaty with Israel establishing diplomatic relations and ending the state of war between them, it was a huge deal. When Jordan did the same, it was significant. These two states border on Israel, and they have fought short but bloody wars since 1947 when Israel was founded. When Lebanon signed a deal that was a peace treaty in all but name, it eliminated another source of anti-Israeli attacks. However, Syria and Hezbollah have managed to make that agreement less effective in supporting regional security. Syria remains at war, technically, with Israel, but it is more actively at war with itself. Thus, it poses a marginal threat to outside forces at most.
It is the Syria-Hezbollah dimension, though, that Iran has used to project Shi'ite power in the region. Damascus is Tehran's only ally in the region of any importance, and Hezbollah is a puppet of both. Iran has been disruptive of the region since the Islamic revolution of 1979, and with the Iraqi bulwark against Iran more or less destroyed by the US in 2003, Iran has become a bigger problem for nations like Bahrain (separated from Iran by a few miles of seawater) and the UAE (also close).
Moreover, the Saudis and Iran have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen for years, and much like the Russian-US conflict fought out in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, neither side has made much progress militarily. And like that conflict, the civilians in the country do most of the dying.
The interests of the Israelis and the Sunni nations have been aligned for a great many years. It has been the Palestinian issue that has prevented them from cooperating more than they have. The continued ineptitude of the Palestinian Authority and the hard-hearted policies of the Netanyahu government have marginalized the PA to the point where the Sunni bloc no longer even wants to pay lipservice to the idea of an independent Palestine. Hence, the agreement was signed yesterday acknowledging that reality.
Saudi Arabia is not quite ready to sign a similar deal with Israel, but that is only a matter of time. The Saudis and Israelis have collaborated before, and they can always operate through the Bahrainis and the UAE. What this alignment also does is allow the US to arm the Sunni-Israeli bloc more efficiently, and it brings the Israeli Defense Force firmly into the order of battle of the Sunni bloc. The Israeli nuclear arsenal is also a useful counterweight to Iran. Furthermore, having the resources of Mossad adds to the Sunni bloc's intelligence gathering capacities.
For the Iranians, this is a worrisome development. So long as the Sunnis and Israelis were arguing over the Palestinian issue, anti-Iranian unity was not possible. That deterrent is gone.
At the same time, it creates an opportunity for Iran to create greater trouble in the Palestinian lands. The PA is isolated in the Sunni world, and if accepting help from the Shi'ite bloc is the price of continuing to resist the Israeli occupation, the PA will gladly accept it. So, one expects some pro-Iranian disruptions from this quarter.
This is not a peace treaty. It is a recognition of reality. The Israelis and the Sunnis have the same interests. This allows them to pursue those interests in tandem.
© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.