Israel is up to its neck in the US-Iran nuclear deal, but where are the Arabs?
It is clear that, as a US-Iran nuclear deal appears to draw ever closer, Israel is determined to make sure its interests won't be touched. Most important, for Israel, is that Washington doesn't attempt to curtail its operations against those it refers to as "Iran's regional proxies".
While Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid announced on 25 August that Washington had submitted to their pressure, rejecting a number of Iranian demands it saw as threatening, this wasn't enough. What Israel wants, in return for its conditional acceptance of a revived nuclear US-Iran deal, is the guarantee of stronger Israeli participation in American military decisions in the region, and "freedom of movement" when it comes to striking Iran's allies.
"What Israel wants, in return for its conditional acceptance of a revived nuclear US-Iran deal, is the guarantee of stronger Israeli participation in American military decisions in the region"
Israel didn't wait for assurances. On the same day as Lapid's announcement, Defence Minister Benny Gantz flew to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) in Florida, to state another condition – that Israel should be allowed to take an active leadership role in CENTCOM's Middle East operations. This request is fully in line with the US' overarching goal of forming a military-security alliance between Israel and Arab states in the name of confronting Iran –throwing light on the US decision last year to transfer Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to CENTCOM – a decision made by Trump just days before he left the White House.
Moreover, one day before, Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata had flown to Washington to meet his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, to receive a briefing on the wording of the latest official US letter to Iran which contained the final conditions of the deal: Israel essentially insisted on vetting the letter before it was sent, according to the US Axios news website.
What is clear is that Gantz desires, above all, the guarantee that Israel will be free to decide how to deal with "Iran’s proxies" - so even if Washington's commitments in the deal prevent US strikes against Iran, Tel Aviv will be under no obligation to step down from what it sees as its campaign against Tehran's allies.
By "dealing with Iranian proxies", Israel is talking about the freedom to continue strikes against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza and attack supply lines to Hezbollah in Syria. We could also see the phrase used soon to justify Israeli targeting of specific locations in Lebanon which could pressure the Lebanese government to accept Israel's terms for natural gas extraction from Lebanese waters.
From all this, it can be surmised that the intense media campaign and "panicked" Israeli statements over the past fortnight were not merely an outcry against a revived Iran nuclear deal - they were calculated to achieve new gains.
The US' considerable efforts to integrate Israel in the region and ensure its military supremacy haven't been enough to satisfy them. For instance, the normalisation pushed through the Abraham Accords, despite the acquiescence of some Arab leaders, have not yet achieved what the US and Israel hoped for. Washington wants to see integrated air and missile defence systems in the region, controlled by Israel, but agreed to and hosted by Arab states.
"By "dealing with Iranian proxies", Israel is talking about the freedom to continue strikes against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza and attack supply lines to Hezbollah in Syria"
Israel is pressing for an active role in CENTCOM because it doesn't want to wait for hesitant Arab governments and is taking advantage of the dispute with Washington over the Iran deal to impose a fait accompli in the region, speed up the process of its integration, and force acknowledgement of its regional hegemony.
None of this is surprising as a possible deal draws near. Israeli intransigence (as well as that of hardliners from the US congress) has seemingly fed into the US rejecting a host of Iranian demands. The US refused to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from the terrorism list; to lift the ban on businesses that dealt with them, and to pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to halt their investigation into Tehran's nuclear activities.
It is clear that even if Tehran had no goal other than to consolidate its regional role and hegemony, this would never be permitted by the US or Israel, because, regionally, only Israel is allowed a nuclear weapons programme. This is to secure Israel's domination of the region – not out of fear that Iran might use nuclear weapons – but to prevent any other state in the region from owning a weapons system which could potentially deter its ability to continue plundering Palestine, and killing and displacing its people.
Glaringly absent from the scene is an Arab perspective. While negotiations on a regional nuclear programme are underway, not one voice is raised to outline Arab demands or press for Arab rights. No one is standing up to the continuing contempt for - and multiple violations of - Arab sovereignty and security, which is being dismantled apace. It is no longer possible to see a statement, even a tepid one, from the Arab League, the fractured remnants of which is rejected by Israel and the West.
Nor is it possible to rely on any of the Arab world's leaders. The situation is so dismal that any move to push back, however small, is welcomed, and seen as a source of hope, like Arab leaders' reluctance to accept the proposal of a regional integrated missiles system with Israel. This was clear during President Biden's visit to Riyadh in July, even if the steadfastness of these leaders on this issue doesn't inspire confidence.
To end their stark lack of involvement on an issue which has deep ramifications for the Arab world, and establish a strong presence, Arab countries should initiate dialogue and negotiations with Iran with a view to reaching a consensus which is respectful of Arab sovereignty. This should be done without entering an Israeli-American alliance against the "Iranian threat", which will only work in the interests of further entrenched Israeli hegemony.
This is not about nationalistic jingoism – it is about ensuring a future for the coming generations. If a US-Iran deal is reached, let us turn the event into an opportunity to demand that our governments stop begging for the illusion of Israeli-American "protection", which just consolidates Israel's domination, and open frank dialogue with Tehran.
While it is undoubtedly true that Iran is a regional, highly influential power, it is necessary that we lay foundations for dialogue with it on even footing, far removed from the US' agenda. If a US-Iran nuclear deal doesn't happen, then the US will have made its decision in line with its interests, not ours. Therefore, let us stop being a tool to be exploited in its wars, both real and imagined.
Lamis Andoni is a Palestinian journalist, writer and academic who launched al-Araby al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, as its editor in chief.
This is an edited and abridged translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.
Translated by Rose Chacko.
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