US Mideast policy, part II

Yesterday I explained how the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israel and the Palestinians is based on a mistake — the belief that the problems of Iranian expansionism and weapons development would be easier to solve once a Palestinian state had been established.

I argued that this is backwards, since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is exacerbated by Iranian support of Hamas, and that it is impossible to end the conflict without a change in Iran’s behavior.

I want to continue this thread with another argument, and then comment about the source of the mistake.

It seems to me that not only is the administration apparently blind to what Iran is doing now with regard to Israel and the Palestinians, its policy ignores Iranian plans for the future.

Iran has economic and political-religious objectives in the region. They would like to force the price of oil higher, so their less-efficient infrastructure can make a profit. As a result, they aspire to the power to bully Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to reduce production.

Further, Iran has expanded its influence in the arc comprising Syria and Lebanon: Syria has become an explicit satellite of Iran, a recipient of a huge amount of military hardware, much of which is under Iranian control.  Iranian influence over Lebanon, already great — Hezbollah presently is the single most powerful element in the government — will increase even more as Hezbollah makes expected gains in next month’s elections.

Egypt recently arrested a number of Hezbollah agents who were scouting targets for terrorist attacks, some of which were tourist sites where Israelis or Americans might be found, but others — such as locations along the Suez canal — indicated a plan to destabilize the regime. President Mubarak explicitly denounced Iran and Hezbollah.

In Iraq, with its Shiite majority, it’s hard to imagine that anything can prevent Iran from gaining control of that nation when US troops leave.

The Sunni nations are also worried that Iran may successfully export its brand of revolutionary Shiite Islamism, a previously unlikely outcome which its political successes make more and more imaginable.

All of these goals, of course, will be greatly aided by Iran’s achievement of a nuclear capability.

It’s obvious that the biggest obstacle to these plans is both the strongest military power in the region, and the closest ally of the US, Israel. And for this reason Iran is besieging Israel from the north and south by means of its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Note that this has nothing to do with the Palestinians, except insofar as they are being used as soldiers in the Iranian campaign to destroy Israel.

It is suggested that the Saudis and others will be more disposed to cooperate with the US in containing Iran if the Palestinian problem is ‘solved’ first. But since it would have no effect on Iranian behavior, there is no reason to believe this.  If this idea came from the Arabs, then it’s more likely that they are simply using this as a handy stick to beat Israel with.

Let’s assume that the Obama administration and the US State Department understand that the policy as stated is absurd. Then what do they gain from forcing the creation of a Palestinian state at this time?

  • It’s not good for Israel and moderate Palestinians: as I said yesterday, it’s a prescription for war.
  • It will not retard Iranian plans, and if it weakens Israel — which it must — it will advance them. If Israel gives up the Golan Heights, it will represent a direct strategic advantage for Iranian proxies Syria and Hezbollah.
  • It will, however, please the Saudis, who would like to see a smaller (or no) Israel  and whose ‘peace plan‘ has now been mentioned as part of the formula for creating the Palestinian state.

Despite the talk about Barack Obama representing new beginnings, we see that US Mideast policy is still flowing from the same old sources. If the administration wants to give more than lip service to opposing Iranian plans, this has to change.

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