Does the nuclear accord increase the chance of war between Israel and Iran, or does it decrease it? One of President Obama’s selling points has been, “It’s either this deal, or war.” That logic is plainly false, but I’ll have to say, I judge it false not because the logic is poor, but because the speaker is untrustworthy. Our air force supports Iranian troops in Iraq, for heaven’s sake. We are not going to launch a war against Iran at this point.
Israel is another matter. No one can tell right now what impact this new understanding between Iran and the United States will have on Israel’s calculations. One country in the region, Iran, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. No one knows whether the threat is intended mainly for domestic consumption, to keep the faithful focused on an external enemy, or if the theocrats mean it. The theocrats probably don’t know the answer either. The Israelis say, it doesn’t matter what the answer is: we have to be ready.
We know what Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks about the U. S. – Iran accord. He came all the way to Washington DC to tell Congress his government’s position. Obama and Kerry push ahead, and tell the Israelis we’ll release Jonathan Pollard to mollify them. Jonathan Pollard’s freedom is not going to help matters when Israel attacks Iran. Nothing will help matters when Israel opens up a new theater in the world war that finds Jerusalem at its geographic center.
A time existed not long ago when Israel would not go to war without Washington’s blessing. The U. S. had that much leverage over Israeli foreign policy, since Israel depended so heavily on the United States for war materiel. Those days are over. Israel can go to China for its weapons, if it likes. Who knows, it might even decide that Putin looks like an attractive option. The main point is that Israel does not want to depend on the U. S. as its sole weapons supplier, and it doesn’t.
It’s true that Israel’s air force depends on U. S. manufacturers for parts, but under current conditions in the Middle East, it can obtain those parts without separate approval from the U. S. State Department or Defense Department. Current conditions also mean the U. S. won’t cut the amount of money that flows to Israel, any more than it would have cut funds to Egypt during the revolution there.
So it’s remarkable that critics of this deal don’t assess the likelihood of war between Israel and Iran. Mike Huckabee mentions the Holocaust, and everyone goes nuts. I’m not sure why: is Israel privileged in that matter, the only country that can introduce the Holocaust into foreign policy discourse? Why was Huckabee impolite to make a reference like that? Why would the reference offend survivors’ descendants, more than when Israel’s leaders use similar language?
In any case, we know or suspect President Obama’s rosy views about future relations between Washington and Tehran. He’s thinking about his legacy, that bugaboo the journalists love to drag up ever since Bill Clinton used the word toward the end of his presidency. The legacy won’t look so bright if Israel bombs Iran during the next president’s time in office. Hillary would not like to see a war like that, and you can bet a Republican president would not take the blame for such a calamity.
All we can say now is that the world war currently underway will get worse before it begins to dissipate. It has become steadily worse since we opened up the Afghan theater after 9/11, and not one sign points toward any easing of this fight. Iran and Israel have entered the fight, but intermittently and not as principal combatants. The nuclear accord, signed and under discussion could change that. If Israel and Iran enter the arena, to fight each other, we’ll know how to judge Obama’s foreign policy legacy.
Divided America on the World Stage: Broken Government and Foreign Policy, by Howard Wiarda
Comments about Israel’s sources of war materiel, and the U. S. – Israeli defense bond, apply to the future of this strained alliance. For a good analysis of the past and present, see http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf