Bedtime in the Middle East
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.