Israel and the US are on a Collision Course Over Iran

Joe Biden has been in office for about a month. I have my doubts about the degree to which Joe himself is running things, but because he has always bent pragmatically to the winds of political (and perhaps personal) advantage, it’s not really important. Someone is making policy, in particular policy that concerns Israel. The course set by the Biden Administration appears to be almost 180 degrees from that taken by Donald Trump, and promises to bring back the sharp disagreements between the two nations that characterized the Obama period. He has already brought back most of the same people.

There are two main areas with which Israel must be concerned: the Palestinian and Iranian arenas. The Palestinian question seems to be on the back burner now, perhaps because everyone realizes that no solution is likely. But the Iranian desk is buzzing with activity. Obama’s people had four years to lick their wounds and plan for a rematch. Now their time has come, and they are moving swiftly.

Indeed, it has recently been revealed that during the Trump Administration, John Kerry and Robert Malley met with Iranian and EU officials and advised them to ignore overtures from President Trump’s people to fix the defects in the deal, and wait for their team to return with the expected Democratic victory. Seeing no alternative, Trump took the US out of the deal in 2018 (several European nations remain in it with Iran).

Biden’s declared Iran policy seems to be more or less the same as Obama’s, and it will be implemented by the same people: Malley, Jake Sullivan, Wendy Sherman, and Anthony Blinken. Before his appointment, Malley’s “International Crisis Group” prepared a report that recommended that the new administration should “move swiftly to revive the nuclear agreement on its existing terms.”

This is the deal that provided for an inspection regime with holes big enough to drive a truck through, which had sunset clauses that in effect guaranteed that after a certain point Iran’s weapons development would be legitimate, which revoked UN prohibitions on missile development, and which suffered from numerous other flaws – to the point that Binyamin Netanyahu risked an open break with the US, its essential ally and prime supplier of critical military equipment, in order to oppose it.

The new administration has already begun to make concessions to Iran in order to initiate a process of mutual moves to restart the deal. It removed the designation of Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen as terrorists, and announced that it would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against them. Biden also reversed Trump’s “snapback” to honoring pre-2015 UN sanctions on Iran.

Iran, for its part, has said that it wants to see all sanctions lifted and the deal reinstated at the point Trump left it. It’s not clear what the Iranians would do with the prohibited high-enriched uranium and even uranium metal that they have produced in violation of it since then.

Biden’s policies, from Israel’s point of view, are extremely dangerous. And the political situation in Biden’s Democratic Party is becoming more and more anti-Israel, as it moves to the left. There is little to restrain the administration, and there are forces pushing it to take positions even more disadvantageous to Israel.

The evaluation in Israel is that we cannot simply leave it to the US and trust that everything will be fine. A return to the deal without significant changes – which nobody thinks the American negotiators can, or even want to, obtain – will ultimately result in a nuclear Iran. On the other hand, direct opposition to the US could leave Israel in trouble, a result of the excessive dependence of the IDF on American aid. Israel is locked into extremely complex weapons systems that in many cases are integrated with our own systems, and switching to (for example) Russian systems, or even trying to develop our own, would be a very long, difficult process.

Caroline Glick thinks that Israel can maintain good relations with the US while working to decrease dependence, and establish relationships various political factions in the US as well as with other allies who are not happy with the prospect of Iranian nuclear hegemony.

I am afraid this is wishful thinking. Everything she suggests about developing our allies, and so forth, is worth doing, but there is no way  Israel can avoid direct conflict with the American administration if it will not “concede either its sovereignty or its core interests to satisfy an administration committed to policies that harm both,” as Glick puts it. In my opinion, a confrontation is unavoidable, even if our PM does not travel to the US and speak to a joint session of Congress, as Netanyahu did in 2015.

I can see one way out of the dilemma. That is to present the Americans with a fait accompli that will at the same time send an unmistakable message that Israel cannot accept a nuclear Iran, and that will significantly set back the Iranian project. I mean, of course, military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. And the sooner – before the US becomes fully enmeshed in negotiations with Iran – the better.

Although there is no doubt it will anger those in the American administration who are more anti-Israel than worried about Iran’s expansionism, it will speak to those who have a realistic attitude and understand that the primary goal is to keep Iran from going nuclear. The Rob Malleys will not approve. The Tony Blinkens might. You may recall the condemnation of Israel that followed her destruction of Saddam’s reactor in 1981; ultimately, almost everyone agreed that it was a good thing.

This time the job is much more difficult. Is it possible to carry it out without too much damage from the certain retaliation? Is there a way to neutralize Iran’s ability to retaliate? What are the probabilities?

These are questions that I can’t answer. They are questions for our Chief of Staff, and I believe the Prime Minister has already asked them.

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3 Responses to Israel and the US are on a Collision Course Over Iran

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has hinted that Israel will go it alone, if necessary, to stop Iran. This suggests the military strike and the effort to delay or ideally eliminate the Iranian program. One problem is however that this seems a very difficult if not impossible task. But I may well be wrong here.
    I will however add a cautionary word. What damage would be done to Israeli society in retaliation by the missiles of Hezbollah Syria Gaza Iran? The destruction we might have of our society might not be tantamount to being hit by a nuclear weapon, but it might conceivably be so great as to undermine the future of the Jewish state.

  2. shalom-hillel says:

    I try but I can’t figure out WHY the US under the Democrats has adopted this apparently demented Iran policy. This regime is terrorist. It has not only Israel, but America in its sights. Democrats are making it possible for a Hitlerian regime to achieve nukes. Is there something we are not being told? The entire Mideast is up in arms about our building up of Iran. The US’ Arab allies feel they are being stabbed in the back, and of course, the same is true of Israel.
    I’m writing this today not only out of frustration, but to see if any of us have thoughts to explain what is happening.  I feel as though I am watching a train wreck in slow motion. I know how bad it can turn out, but I see it progressing.
    So, what can be done, what can Israel do, to change this progression? Because it MUST be changed. It MUST be stopped. I don’t doubt for a second that Netanyahu feels the same way.
    Let’s put aside for the moment the option of bombing the nuke sites. Can anything else be done? Can Khamenei be eliminated? Can the top leadership be eliminated? Given their technology (I won’t elaborate) I think it is within Israel’s power to do so. Vic, in your estimation would that help in bringing down this  toxic regime? At least it could break their belief that they have a divinely-inspired mandate for their actions. The regime might fall without its planners in the picture.  I wonder if Netanyahu is considering this? As bad a precedent as it is it is not worse than Iran achieving nukes.
    As far as bombing the nuke sites, the US might actively try to stop this action. Remember  Zbigniew Brzezinski saying Israeli jets should be shot down?  I agree that Biden probably does not have Obama’s animus towards Israel, but it might not matter. It looks like Obama is running this show.
    To get back to my original question: WHY is the US  committed to an insane policy on Iran? The only answer I can come up with is; they want to bring Israel down.
    The only answer to that is: Iran must be stopped. This is Germany in 1940. Do we kill Hitler? It’s not even a question.
    Let me just add an important factor. The pandemic. Israel must rush to finish vaccinating everyone who is willing. Before that is done, huddling in bomb shelters, which might be necessary, will be dangerous. I think we can expect Israel to act after the population has been properly protected from Covid-19.

  3. Pinchas Baram says:

    the Mossad or its under the radar allies in Iran must eliminate Khaimeni. in short, hit Hitler, the head of the snake, and speedily, in our day.

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