Professor Lawrence Freedman, a professor of War Studies at Kings College in London, said in an earlier article in the Times that Tehran and Tel Aviv were exchanging fire in Syria but they both agree that the remainder of Bashar Al-Assad in power is a common interest for them both. He also believes that despite the fact that the confrontations will continue between Tehran and Tel Aviv, a comprehensive war between the two is unlikely, and they will agree to play by the same rules of the game in its current indirect form. There is much evidence of this analysis, as despite the exchanged strikes over the past week, both parties have stressed their unwillingness to expand the scope of confrontation.
There is no Iranian-Israeli war on the horizon, for several reasons, including the fact that the two countries are aware of the dangers of such a war and the difficulty of controlling the scope of its spark. They also believe that proxy wars, such as the one taking place in Syria for years, are the perfect recipe and the least costly to achieve their goals. As of this moment, the ones paying the price for these crazy wars in the region are not the Iranians or the Israelis, but rather the Syrians, Lebanese and the Yemenis. Everyone is fighting in our Arab arena and the victims are the Arabs.
Perhaps a quick reading of the nature of the Iranian-Israeli confrontations on Syrian soil indicates that both sides decided to continue the policy of indirect confrontation. Lieberman’s statements about Israel’s unwillingness to expand the scope of the war reveal an Israeli awareness of the dangers of a full-scale war. In addition to this, Tehran’s continued caution and perhaps silence, despite its limited strikes that were allegedly launched against Israeli targets, indicate that it also does not want such a war.
The fact that some Arab countries have welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement reflects a real ignorance and inability to understand the new US policy. It also indicates these countries are repeating the mistakes of the past. Despite all of the changes in the region, they have not yet realised that Washington and Tel Aviv will not wage war on Tehran solely for the sake of these countries.
The American approach today is going in the same direction established by former President Barack Obama. This approach is the “strategy of gradual withdrawal from the region” and, therefore, everyone who cursed Obama and praised Trump and his missiles should reconsider. We saw Trump decide to withdraw from Syria a few days after he launched his missiles. We also saw Trump, who threatened North Korea’s president, post a tweet praising him and eagerly counting the days until they meet. These Gulf states must realised that despite his decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, Trump will not invade Iran and overthrow its government; these are daydreams and wishful thinking. Washington will be content inciting against it, watching the fire, and selling weapons if Riyadh and its new allies decide to embark on an uncalculated adventure, the price of which will be paid by the countries in the region and its people. This will not be in the best interest of the Arab Gulf.
We must not allow the “neo-Zionists” to brainwash us and try to convince us that Israel is not a state of occupation and Apartheid, and that we should be allied with it in the face of the Iranian threat. We must remember that this Zionist project succeeded in establishing its first state as a result of the Arabs’ failure, weakness and conspiracy. Today, Tel Aviv is dominating the region and establishing its second Jewish state as a result of the worsening of this Arab failure and the desire of the “neo-Zionists” in our region to join the Zionist project because they feel helpless in the face of it. It is also their way of bowing down to their American master.
On the other hand, this does not mean that we stand with the Iranian occupier, which took advantage of this Arab failure and over the years, established sectarian militias that occupy Arab territories today and support tyrannical regimes. Iran has dominated Baghdad, Damascus and Sana’a and therefore made it difficult for the Arab people to consider it an ally against the Zionist project. The bloodshed it caused in Syria, Iraq and Yemen makes it very difficult to sympathise with it.
In spite of all of the above, instead of the Arabs welcoming Trump’s miserable acts of arrogance, and Iranian-Arab dialogue should begin, leading to sparing the region a new disastrous war. They must also stop the depletion of the people’s resources and energy in fruitless wars that will not bring about stability and security. Estimates suggest that Saudi Arabia spent about $700 billion on its war in Yemen, so how much will Riyadh and the Arabs spend on this crazy war if it breaks out? The main question is will there still be financial resources to spend from? The voice of reason must emerge and the Gulf countries must fix their problems from within, unite their ranks and rebuild the GCC. They must also reform the Arab League in order to revive whatever is left of comprehensive Arab institutions. While the Iranian expansionist project is aiming to infiltrate the region and revive the legacy of the Persian Empire, and does not hesitate in using soft and hard power to achieve this, it is also true that the absence of an Arab project is what opened the door wide for this project.
It is also not true, and a major misconception to believe that allying with the Israeli occupied is the antidote for survival, as there are other available and clear options. Such options start with changing the way Arabs think and escaping Sadat’s thoughts that all of the playing cards are in America’s hands.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 15 May 2018.