US has two interests in Middle East; oil and Israel.
Both are its vital interests but security of Israel is unexceptionable. Policy of US in Middle East is indissolubly linked to its absolute and unwavering primordial commitment to protect the right of Israel to exist, to exist permanently and to exist in peace. No excess is considered too severe or awkward to achieve level and extent of security set by Israel for itself. Israel wants zero risk security even if it amounts to no security and sovereignty at all to hapless Palestinians and countries in its neighbourhood.
The rightful Arab struggle against Israel albeit construed as a security threat by them and their faithful supporters, has virtually come to a naught. Who caused/engineered it? The consensus is on US.Apex point of the struggle was Arab Israel war in 1973 when Egypt and Syria in lead broke Israeli myth of invincibility by crossing Bar Lev Line on Suez Canal and making inroads into strategic Golan Heights. It was US emergency shipment of military hardware which rescued Israel of most shattering experience of its existence. In her memoirs, Golda Mier refers to war as something that came very close to an utter disaster. Now it is a tale of past. Present is fraught time for Arabs. During a conversation, US Secretary of State asked President Nixon how many transport aircrafts be sent for shipment, his reply was send everything which could fly while throwing caution to the wind. This is the level, US could go to meet Israeli demand. At the moment, Israel and US both seems in total agreement on self-professed dangers faced by both, based on twin threats of militant Islam – Shiite extremists led by Iran and Sunni Extremists led by Daesh. Former appears to be first on their hit list because it has relatively more motivation, focus and steam.
In 2015 when Obama administration and other world powers (P5+1) signed a nuclear deal at restricting nuclear fuel enrichment of Tehran for ten years in exchange of raising crippling sanctions imposed against them. It had smooth sailing so far but now it has come under barrage of misgivings by US following Trump in office. These revolves around; Iran’s non adherence to spirit of nuclear accord, relief provided by easing/lifting sanctions is being abused to heighten destabilization in the region. Money was not meant for weapons and support of terrorism.
Though deal remains in force but in no way it mitigates against or excuses instigating Iranian activities in the region notably, war in Yemen and Hezbollah and its presence in Syria. There is a requirement of taking into cognisance all threats posed by Iran and clearly these are many. The rhetoric and diplomatic tirade gained momentum during US Secretary of Defence’s visit to Saudi Arab and Israel. All this raises serious questions about currency of the deal signed internationally, not under bilateral arrangements.
There are host of reasons which may suggest that current salvo of US’ outpourings about deal is not aimed entirely at scrapping the deal. In a rat race of election sloganeering, President Trump went berserk to the extent of dismantling the deal as his first priority when he assumes presidency. Possibly it a domestic political cover up at the time when US had to okay review of the deal owing to its satisfactory endorsement by International watch dog; IAEA. The deal was inked by outgoing administration and its demise at the hands of incoming administration would set a dangerous precedent. It is an international deal of greater weight and sanctity.
It is not up to US to tear it apart out of hand unilaterally. It may alienate US more internationally than Iran. These are few constraints but not decisive ones for not scrapping the deal all together. Noting is insurmountable for US if it clashes with security of Israel. Real reason is, probably underlying motivation could be achieved short of resorting to extreme action. The motivation is to pulverize Iran and its proxies in gulf region with ultimate aim of boasting Israel’s security beyond measure. Hullabaloo about nuclear deal is a mean to end.
US’s accusation about non adherence of Iran to spirit of nuclear deal may form basis for its renewed offensive against them in gulf. Underlined theme could be that Iran without nuclear deal could have been an evil in the region but with deal, its activities are fast becoming menacing, capable of posing serious hazards to peace in the region so it is no big deal. It is therefore, a need exists to do something more and substantial.
Not surprisingly, most of its impressive audience would be found among Arab states. Its recent manifestation was witnessed during US Secretary of Defence’s visit to Saudi Arab. He minced no word to openly welcome their efforts to checkmate Iran and establish their control in the region. He was equally vocal to support Saudi led coalition which may ultimately become a forum to isolate Iran. It will not dawn peace in the volatile region. Instead strife, divide and conflict will creep in and ultimately, will set the stage for mutual destruction as was the case in Iraq and Syria. In return, this will lend a new meaning to might of the Israel. US has already shown its cards by bombing Syrian airbase suspected of staging chemical attack to lit the fire.
In above backdrop, US may stress at ways which ensure more unambiguous and strict enforcement of terms of deal failing which Iran be penalized by strict sanctions again. US may attempt to rally support to impose linked or separate tough sanctions against Iran for its activities, destabilizing the gulf. US’s reservations about nuclear deal may also be intended to act as pressure tactics on Iran to not overstep the line as North Korea did in the past. This time they are careful and watchful.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.