Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to call the tune for U.S. policy in the Middle East, going so far as to avoid criticizing U.S. neo-Nazis to not offend President Trump, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar describes.
By Paul R. Pillar
Recently I wrote about the two-sided Saudi policy on Iran, in which Riyadh sees good reason to take quiet steps to reduce tension with its neighbor across the Persian Gulf while still making alarm about a supposed Iranian threat the basis for keeping the United States tied to its side.
But Saudi Arabia (along with its partners in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) is not the only party in the region to exploit an anti-Iran theme as a basis for retaining U.S. support, and it certainly is not the most influential one in shaping U.S. policy. That would be the right-wing government of Israel, which has made relentless excoriation of Iran one of the dominant themes of its public diplomacy.
The Israeli push to keep Iran in the status of an isolated, despised demon with whom nobody should do any business has included opposition to the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear agreement — even though, as senior Israeli security officials have observed, by closing any route to an Iranian nuclear weapon this agreement is very much in Israel’s security interests.
The Israeli government does not have the same sort of balancing act the Gulf Arabs have in manipulating the Iran issue. Israel does not live in, or export oil from, the Persian Gulf. It would not be paying the human and material costs of armed confrontation between Iran and Arabs or between Iran and the United States.
Indeed, warfare in the Persian Gulf would all the more serve the purposes that the promotion of unending hostility toward Iran already serve for the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu. A clash in the Gulf would foreclose any possibility (already almost nonexistent under Donald Trump) of any further U.S. rapprochement with Iran. It would thus play to the Israeli line of Israel being the only…