Who Is Who’s Proxy?

May 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

USAF F-22s are deployed for the first time to the Persian Gulf in 2012

If as rapper Eminem’s song goes ‘words are weapons’, then it is high time for some gun control. A rational stance against Iran’s nuclear program is today the outcome of nothing other than demagoguery.

Many imagined the Obama administration’s approach to the Iranian nuclear program to differ starkly from that of the Bush years and yet it has not: it basically balances holding the Israelis back from a direct attack with cumulative sanctions pressuring the regime into a compromise. The need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is a constant.

Let us closely scrutinize the argument: why would it be negative for Iran to acquire nuclear capability? Because it would deploy nuclear weapons, launch them and engulf the world in a nuclear cataclysm? No, more likely because a nuclear armed Iran would become invulnerable to conventional military attacks. Through a WMD deterrent it would then have the ability to project power throughout the region at will – think Hezbollah times three, a USSR of the Middle East. But the ones most affected by this scenario are not the US, or Europe or even Israel, it is the Arab world. More instability in the Middle East would certainly hurt westerners and their supply of oil but there are alternative suppliers. Israel would feel threatened and might sustain more problems with terrorist organizations or unstable neighbors but for them, this is almost a way of life, and a nuclear Iran would think twice before directly threatening a close US ally. The Arab world and in particular the Persian Gulf monarchies however stand to lose much more as instability in the region might contaminate their own societies: oil being their main source of income any interruption in exports would severely cripple their economies and the possible removal of the western military shield through Iranian pressure, would leave Iran along with Turkey as the remaining regional powers – setting the Arab world back a century to the time of Ottoman Turkey and Arab submission. One should note that unlike Israel, there is little love for Arabs in the West and it would not be unreasonable to expect western electorates to pressure their politicians into disengagement from the region, if the stakes became too high, a sort of post ‘Black Hawk down’ Somalia reflex or even Munich syndrome.

Indeed the Arab world is said to be urging Israel to attack behind closed doors and Wikileaks made public Saudi statements enticing the US to do the same. Why then is the US and Israel on the brink of war with Iran but not a single Arab state? The last time the Gulf monarchies were threatened by an outside power was when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and back then many Arab countries joined the coalition to confront him. What is more, Iran is a much more difficult target for Israel than it is for the monarchies and the US has little appetite and capability for war while its finances are under stress. Arab countries conversely have the geographical ease and the advanced military technology to do so. They also have the economic instruments to manipulate the price of oil should Iran attempt to disrupt the international supply and this is to not even mention that Gulf Arab financial resources pooled together are in much more abundance to sustain a war than Israel’s or America’s.

It should be Saudi Arabia and the GCC making ready for war and threatening Iran rather than Israel or the US. But lets go even further with this rationale: it should be the Arab world pressuring Israel and the Palestinians into a two state solution for the conflict in Palestine, rather than Washington for it is they who are desperate for a counter-weight to Iranian influence and who need a sufficiently intimidating coalition to persuade Iran to negotiate; Israel should be a part of that coalition – and an obvious part at that.

Saudi forces retake Khafji from the Iraqi army during the Gulf War

But rhetorical entrapment makes our world a bizarre place to live indeed. Objectively speaking, the Gulf Arabs have little beef with Israel, and Palestine is supremely immaterial to the interests of most Arab states. Yet the plight of the Palestinians has remained on the top of their foreign policy agendas for decades leading to direct wars with Israel and to expensive sponsoring of proxy ones. Nothing was gained from it for the Palestinians or for the Arabs in general and one wonders what would have been gained even if the Arabs had had the upper hand. The Arab world declared a punitive embargo on the West in 1973 to protest the West’s protection of Israel and that led to a push for energy diversification in the west that to this day finds consensus between the left and the right and serves to demonize Arab countries.

All this might have been affordable until now but today it is not some small fledgling nation the Arabs are antagonizing, Iran is a country which represents to them an existential threat. Through their money and lobbying they managed to equip Iraq to fight revolutionary Iran from the onset of the Islamic revolution and along with the West have done their best to politically isolate the ayatollahs. But Iraq is no more and the US is still licking its wounds from its ‘freedom’ campaigns. What time and urgency would better justify recognizing Israel and have it join the anti-Iranian coalition?

It is not like in the case of Greece and Turkey where in spite of both being US allies, adjacent friction will always exist; Israel is far from the Gulf. What is more, it is as well armed as the peninsular monarchies and shares with them a dread of a nuclear Iran.

No, it is the power of words and especially a narrative which has been at play for decades that prevents further cooperation. Anti-western rhetoric dating back to the time of European colonization and Cold War alliances still has an impact on the ‘Arab street’. So too does antisemitic propaganda unleashed after Israel’s successful war for independence, being propagated today in virtually every Arab country through a politically correct anti-Jewish prejudice that Islamic clerics instill rather than combating.

It is not as if Arab leaders don’t know where the national interest of the states they run lies but rather that their hands are tied by the vitriol they themselves financed in the past.

The absurd of the pretense goes to the extent that Americans, Israelis, Europeans and even Iranians have to pretend for the sake of domestic Arab opinion that not only are relations between Arab countries and Iran good but that any Israeli attack using Arab air space would be carried out without authorization.

This absurdity deserves ridicule when one realizes that Arab leaders need secret help from their allies to help protect their own citizens from a conspiracy theory they themselves finance.

A reality check is long overdue on the ‘Arab street’: Israel and Jews are not the enemy nor is the West. Conspiracy theories and the narrative of victimization will not get Palestine independence nor build a credible coalition against Iran.

Sadly this seems to be a corner Arab leaders have backed themselves into and from which Israel and the West are being used to exfiltrate them.

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