Any U.S. Distancing from Israel Strengthens Islamists

[New York Jewish Week] David Makovsky - The Saudis and all six Gulf states believe that Iran has hegemonic designs on Arab oil. Senior officials in these states, as well as their counterparts in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, see Iran as hostile to the Arabs for reasons relating to a mix of historical incursions by Persia into the Arab world, aspirations for regional dominance, and sectarian differences. They fear that Iran will funnel money to militant organizations to destabilize Arab regimes and gain Iran a foothold in a Sunni Arab world. Since it is the U.S. and Israel that are the most likely to serve as the strongest countervailing forces against Iran and its allies, few Arab governments actually believe that a weak Israel would serve their national interests. In the post-9/11 world, there are numerous cases of converging interests between Israel and Arab regimes, shaped by a perception of common enemies. After the 2007 Israeli bombing of the Syrian reactor, the Arab regimes remained silent, with none condemning the action, indicating their displeasure with Syria's growing ties to Iran. Arab states led by Saudi Arabia were horrified that Hizbullah went to war with Israel in 2006 without the vote of the Lebanese government in a unilateral decision, facilitated by Iranian weapons. The Arabs wanted Hizbullah to be defeated, not to emerge stronger from the conflict. With Iran's support for Hamas, combined with Iran's emerging nuclear program, Arab leaders see an Iran that appears to be on the march. At the start of the Gaza conflict last December, Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers publicly blamed Hamas as being responsible for the crisis. Egypt still refuses to open its border to Gaza on a regular basis. The Arab states fear that if Tehran gained a bomb, it could lead to the provision of nuclear materials to non-state actors by Iran. They also recognize that a nuclear Iran could engage in much greater coercion of its neighbors. If the U.S. distanced itself from Israel, this would be the greatest windfall imaginable to the strongest Islamist elements, whether al-Qaeda or Iran, who would see it as a validation. It would lend a sense of momentum or inevitability to their cause, and countries throughout the region would view future U.S. actions through this lens. Therefore, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship remains key and a cornerstone for Mideast peace. The writer is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2009-09-11 08:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive