How the US is helping Iran and hurting Israel

This may be the worst short-term consequence of the Iranian nuclear deal of all:

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan is on a two-day tour of Moscow to meet with his counterparts about the signing of a new $8 billion arms contract, according to Iran’s state-controlled media.

Iranian leaders are said to have provided Russia with what they call a “shopping list” of various arms and military hardware. The visit by Dehghan is expected to “speed up a number of key arms deal[s]” between the countries, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

Iran wants to purchase more sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems and also a new cadre of warplanes, according to the report. The new deals will be in addition to several outstanding arms and military contracts that have already been signed between Iran and Russia.

The troubling part is not that Iran will improve its military capabilities, although of course that will happen in a few years as the arms are delivered and integrated into the Iranian forces. But it’s what happens tomorrow which is worrisome: Iran becomes Russia’s best customer in a very profitable industry.

The same will be true of other countries. Germany and France sent delegations to Iran for dealmaking before the ink on the deal was dry (except that there wasn’t any ink – nothing has been signed except the various documents required to free up at least $100 billion in frozen Iranian funds and to remove sanctions on Iran’s oil industry). Iran is also expected to buy weapons from China. These deals will give Iran the ability to pressure its suppliers for political favors.

I’ve argued that Israel needs to reduce its dependence on the US for military hardware and should develop relationships with countries like Russia, China and (as Caroline Glick recently suggested) India. But this will be more difficult if it becomes important to those countries to keep the Iranian regime happy. It’s already happening:

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for establishing a Palestinian state within the pre-1967-war borders amid efforts by Beijing to assert its economic and political clout in the Middle East.

Addressing the Cairo-based Arab League, Xi said the Palestinian problem “should not be marginalized.”

“China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem,” he added through an interpreter. …

The Chinese president had arrived in Egypt Wednesday as part of a regional tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia. Iran will be the final stop in his three-nation trip. [my emphasis]

The relationship between Israel and the US, which seems to be getting worse all the time, may suffer even more. Recently, the huge General Electric Company sent the head of its oil and gas division to Iran to explore business opportunities.

In international business/politics, the customer is always right – and the big customer gets big influence. Usually it’s expressed by behind-the-scenes lobbying, but in 1973 oil companies doing business in the Arab world went public, with Texaco, Chevron, and Mobil all publicly calling for a change in US Middle East policy.

After the war began, the oil companies lobbied US President Nixon against resupplying Israel (fortunately, fearing that Israel in extremis would be driven to use nuclear weapons, he did not follow their advice). Will GE and other American companies be pressured to support Iranian goals once commerce with Iran becomes an important part of their business? How could they not?

Under the present addict/pusher arrangement, Israel lacks the leverage it would get if there were competition for its business. Israel receives military aid from the US and then is required to use it to buy arms from US companies (and not only weapons – things like boots, which once were produced by Israeli businesses, are imported from the US).

It doesn’t have clout with the Americans either. For example, Israel wanted access to the source code for the F-35’s computer systems, so that it could modify and improve it. The US refused. Not only does this significantly slow the process of integration of the new aircraft with Israel’s systems, but it raises the specter of possible ‘back doors’ into the code which might enable the US to track or even force the plane down.

Think about it. How hard would it be to implant a routine in the aircraft’s software that would provide a position report to an American satellite every few seconds? What if the airborne computer could receive a command to disable certain weapons systems? Or the engine? Or even be instructed to do so automatically when, say, the Iranian border is crossed? This isn’t science fiction — it’s a lot easier than many of the things a flight computer has to do.

After the Iran deal was signed, the administration promised Israel that it would be “compensated” with additional aid. Israel wanted to use it to buy F-15SE aircraft and bunker busters, but according to Caroline Glick, the US refused and told it to buy more F-35s instead.

Iran has been given multiple gifts by the Obama Administration, from billions of dollars up front to permission to ultimately build nuclear weapons (and the de facto ability to build them now without getting caught). It was considered Israel’s number one threat even before the deal, and the deal only made it stronger, militarily, politically and psychologically.

Israel, on the other hand, has been hamstrung by the US. The administration interferes when Israel is forced to defend itself from attack by the Iranian proxies on its borders, prevents it from obtaining the weapons it would need to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, subjects it to constant diplomatic pressure over the Palestinian issue, and now – with the recent decision to enforce a rule demanding special labeling for goods produced over the Green Line – joins Europe in encouraging BDS, in practice if not in words.

$3 billion is a lot of money, but unlike the $100 billion that the nuclear deal has made available to Iran, it comes with so many strings attached that we would be better off without it.

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2 Responses to How the US is helping Iran and hurting Israel

  1. Keefe Goldfisher says:

    In your reprised piece about a world without Jews, you made the fantasy the Jews’ choice. In today’s essay, you show the many ways in which a world without Jews is the choice of others, and circumstances are dire.

    Reuel Marc Gerecht had an interesting piece recently where one could almost see the logic of the Iran Deal. The thought went like this: The Saudis have for years insinuated themselves into the governments of the West to sue for protection, have undermined media and universities to promulgate a worldview that is hospitable to Wahabbism and have applied financial pressure to weaken the foes of Islam. One can read Dore Gold’s primer, ‘Hatred’s Kingdom’, on the motivations for Saudi behavior, but the real fruits of their consistent application are all around us. Gerecht takes the argument deeper… if the real purpose of spreading Islam is to purify the faith and convert or kill unbelievers, then the most natural thing in the world is to form a caliphate. But a caliphate would be, in conception at least, a pure and holy manifestation of the faith and not hospitable to a kingdom of hypocrites living a sybaritic life. Gerecht maintains that the more successful Saudi Arabia is, the more they draw the wrath of true believers upon them. Osama bin Laden is more the norm, than an outlier.

    Stand outside this argument for a moment, and pretend you are the President of the United States. You have favored the Muslim Brotherhood in your dealings with Egypt and Turkey, with the Palestinians and within the US itself by praising that group’s efforts. If the Saudis have succeeded too well in their efforts and have drawn the ire of their own co-religionists upon themselves, it would not take a far-sighted leader to believe that before long the winners in the contest for Muslim hearts are going to be the Shias. And, as President, you make a realpolitik agreement that declares the US for the Iranians, because the ramshackle Saudi sovereignty does not impress you with the strength of society and culture to endure its creations, when they come for them, as a long-term play. Seems logical.

    What would be despicable about this decision if it were a fair summary of the President’s mind about US interests is that it would throw everything under the bus for the purpose of realizing the ‘big’ play. Small democracies like Israel, struggling ethnicities like the Kurds, minority religions like Middle Eastern Christians and, most especially, Americans, who never voted for this sort of foreign policy when they voted for the first black President, and never imagined the importance of these remote dealings coming home to roost in the form of immigrant jihad and nuclear assault.

    It is said that Vladimir Putin has a fondness for Jews, who treated him kindly as a child and a young man, that he has advisors and friends who are Jewish. Perhaps Russia can displace American as a best friend, but the foreign policy of Russia, despite a would-be sympathetic soul, does not eschew gangsterism. It relishes the role of a tough image in thwarting any treacherous thoughts about double-dealing with its people. There is not the hard-won struggle for an innate independence of an America in the history of the Russians to compare and conjoin with Israeli experience.

    The entire enterprise of Israel is about to be tested for the position that Obama has situated for the chess pieces of the Middle East. There is no durable friendship with the regime of Iran that exists amongst Americans. Putin would most likely not desire to harm the large Russian expatriate Jewish population that survives in Israel. And that would mitigate some of the intentions of the Iranians. Turkey has lost its goodwill with Russia, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are keeping bridges open to the Russians as interlocutors with the Iranians, as potential arms buyers and even as possible future allies. Russia has closed off Israel’s greatest asset, its defense of the skies above the Middle East, by putting an umbrella of protection over Syria, and sponsoring the Iranians in their cherished goals.

    In these dire circumstances, with even the Chinese taking a morbid course, as you’ve stated, what is the best outcome for Israel?

    They have to be the indispensable nation, not just the startup nation, but the nation no one can afford not to befriend. And that requires a sponsor if you’re small like Israel and everywhere lies peril. It would not be sufficient to increase trade with suitors or show up at a disaster to treat the wounded, or foil BDS efforts, or produce another Nobel laureate, or placate the Palestinians, or have better hasbara. There has to be something about Israel, as Israel, that will infuse the most doubting spirit and inspire its defense from without, aside from the certainty that Israelis will do everything to defend themselves when the moment arrives.

    What that special thing is, I have no idea. I used to think it would be a discovery like Einstein and so many other Jewish scientists’ had that led to the US having the first atomic weapon. Lately, I’ve thought it was the pluckiness of Israelis; they are brave like Americans. But pluck can be killed too. I strain to see, to have a vision of how so much danger can be translated into luck and raw survival.

    It has to be important and it has to arrive soon, whatever it is. And, no, I don’t mean the Messiah… a little luck, with wonderful consequences.

    I just hope America will still be able to enjoy Israel’s success. We are the same soul.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    I listened the other day to an hour interview with Ashton Carter the American Secretary of Defense. He indicated that the US effort in Syria and Iraq is wholly devoted to defeating ISIS.
    He did not indicate that the U.S. is taking any action whatsoever to oppose Iran, Hizbollah and their aiding of Syria.
    This is an indication of how lost U.S. policy is. Carter in trying to answer a question regarding the U.S. being outmaneuvered by a much weaker Russia in Syria patronizingly claimed that what the Russians were doing was bad for the Russians. He did not in any way suggest that the U.S. would confront Russia Iran Hizbollah the latest unholy alliance.
    Iran is being courted and being made stronger, and this is the work of Obama and the nuclear deal as you rightly indicate.
    However I am not sure that Israel can find anything like a real replacement for its close relation with the U.S. This present Administration is a difficult perhaps even impossible one for Israel but it is to be hoped that the next four years will see a significant change for the good.
    This however does not mitigate the concern that Israel has been left alone with the Iran problem as Iran is getting stronger in numerous ways. It is truly disturbing to think that Obama has guaranteed an Iran with a large nuclear force. It is disturbing to think that Iran will have funds t0 invest in every area of strengthening itself and its surrogates militarily.
    There is a lot to be concerned about here.

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