Bed­time in the Mid­dle East

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pol­i­tics make strange bed­fel­lows, as we all know, and some­times it’s a weird bed, in­deed. You can bet that when Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia snug­gle un­der the cov­ers to­gether, it’s a king­size bed, and there’s an enor­mous bundling log be­tween them.

The gov­ern­ments in both Jerusalem and Riyadh, each with a wary eye on Tehran, have sep­a­rately con­cluded that Barack Obama and the Amer­i­cans are un­re­li­able part­ners in peace. Th­ese Arabs and the Jews have be­gun, on their own, plan­ning a re­al­is­tic re­sponse to the Ira­nian bomb that por­tends only catas­tro­phe for ev­ery­one in the Mid­dle East.

Once en­e­mies, Is­rael’s Mos­sad in­tel­li­gence agency and the Saudi gov­ern­ment are work­ing on con­tin­gency plans for de­stroy­ing Iran’s nu­clear-war­fare fa­cil­i­ties, if nec­es­sary, af­ter the West — sans France — and Iran con­clude a deal later this week in Geneva to ap­pease the Ira­nian ap­petite.

“Both the Is­raeli and Saudi gov­ern­ments are con­vinced that the in­ter­na­tional talks to place lim­its on Tehran’s mil­i­tary nu­clear de­vel­op­ment amount to ap­pease­ment and will do lit­tle to slow the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear war­head,” The Lon­don Sun­day Times re­ported over the weekend.

“As part of the grow­ing co­op­er­a­tion, Riyadh is un­der­stood al­ready to have given the go-ahead for Is­raeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an at­tack on Iran. Both sides are now pre­pared to go much far­ther. The Sunni king­dom is as alarmed as Is­rael by the nu­clear am­bi­tions of the Shi­ite-dom­i­nated Iran. Once the Geneva agree­ment is signed, the mil­i­tary op­tion will be back on the ta­ble.”

Ev­ery­thing was greased for the deal 10 days ago un­til the French, of all peo­ple, balked and ex­posed Mr. Obama and David Cameron, who scat­tered like cocker spaniels at the prospect of fac­ing a fit of hiss­ing by a long­tailed tabby. French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande ar­rived in Is­rael on Sun­day for a visit and re­ceived the kind of wel­come once re­served for Amer­i­can pres­i­dents (be­fore this one).

Pres­i­dent Obama, in fact, is well on his way to dis­rupt­ing old and valu­able friend­ships through­out the re­gion. His treat­ment of Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia will be read and an­a­lyzed and read again by al­lies through­out the world. He imag­ined that by bow­ing so low to the Saudi king that he bumped his head on the toe of his wingtips he could scut­tle any Arab fear of the fu­ture. The Obama thumb in the eyes of the Is­raelis could be al­ways be solved by another speech. Or so he imag­ined.

But re­al­ity in­trudes on the dreams of the in­no­cent and the not so in­no­cent. Nei­ther the Is­raelis nor the Saudis can af­ford the in­no­cence of the blind leper wan­der­ing aim­lessly with­out his warn­ing bell. A nu­clear weapon in the hands of the Ira­ni­ans is a threat to the very ex­is­tence of Is­rael, and the Saudi fears of Ira­nian trou­ble­mak­ing are real, ex­ac­er­bated by the vivid re­li­gious di­vide be­tween the Sun­nis of Ara­bia and the Shia of Iran. Nei­ther coun­try can be com­forted by the prospect of a treaty that sat­is­fies only the self-sat­is­fied pow­ers of the West. When re­al­ity in­trudes, in­no­cence flees.

The pro­posed deal in Geneva re­quires Iran to freeze its nu­clear-en­rich­ment work and, above all, loosens the West’s fi­nan­cial sanc­tions on Iran, but does not re­quire Iran to dis­pense with its “en­rich­ment ca­pac­ity.” It doesn’t do any­thing to re­duce Iran’s nu­clear ca­pac­ity. It re­lies on Iran’s good faith. It’s the usual deal that sat­is­fies eas­ily sat­is­fied diplo­mats, who are fear­ful only of some­one rat­tling the teacups. Nei­ther Is­rael nor Saudi Ara­bia can be sat­is­fied with a tea party, how­ever dainty the lit­tle cu­cum­ber sand­wiches.

“I pre­fer a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, I pre­fer a peace­ful so­lu­tion,” says Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, who has shown re­mark­able pa­tience with Mr. Obama’s ap­petite for waf­fles. “Is­rael has the most to gain from a peace­ful so­lu­tion. Is­rael has the most to gain from a diplo­matic so­lu­tion, be­cause we’re on the fir­ing line. I don’t think it’s a good deal. It’s a bad deal — an ex­ceed­ingly bad deal.”

Nei­ther the Is­raelis nor the Saudis can take com­fort in the his­tory of how Amer­i­can gov­ern­ments have dealt with nu­clear out­law regimes they promised to be very, very tough with. Bill Clin­ton promised that North Korea wouldn’t be al­lowed to have nu­clear weapons, with a vow sim­i­lar to the prom­ise Mr. Obama made about a prospec­tive Ira­nian bomb. Words, words, words, they all come cheap. It’s the costly deeds, of blow­ing away the solemn prom­ises, that wreak the mis­ery. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.


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