Early in Barack Obama’s first term, unnamed members of his senior staff said one of the administration’s goals was to “manage America’s decline” on the world stage. And on that count, they seem to be succeeding quite well. U.S. gains in Iraq–won with considerable blood and treasure–are dissipating rapidly; the situation in Afghanistan is going from bad to worse, and our adversaries on the world stage (think: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea) are resurgent, figuring they have nothing to fear from Mr. Obama and his national security team.
And the news only gets worse. This weekend brought the news of a “deal” between the U.S., its European allies and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program. Word of the agreement was greeted with suspicion and derision; In an interview with Aaron Klein on WABC radio, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon noted that his nation was not part of the negotiations, and that Jerusalem would do “whatever is necessary” to keep Iran from going nuclear.
Mr. Klein is also reporting that Israel is taking additional steps to prepare for a possible military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. According to Egyptian intelligence sources, Israeli officers have been inspecting bases in Saudi Arabia, which could be used as staging grounds for the attack. Needless to say, Israel’s use of bases in an Arab country to hit Iran would be unprecedented and normally, Riyadh would quickly dismiss such claims. But as of Sunday evening, the Saudi government had done nothing to dismiss the report.
Nor is Mr. Klein the only journalist to report a potential, secret alliance between the Saudis and Israelis. One week ago, the U.K. Sunday Times reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia are cooperating on military plans that would allow IAF warplanes to use Saudi airspace for an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
ONCE they were sworn enemies. Now Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week.
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 its development of a nuclear warhead.
As part of the growing co-operation, 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.
There is also renewed speculation that Saudi Arabia will pursue its own nuclear option. The Saudi monarchy has been a silent partner in Pakistan’s nuclear program for decades, investing billions of dollars with the understanding that Islamabad would deliver nuclear weapons to Riyadh if the need arose. Pakistani-produced nuclear warheads could be mounted on Saudi intermediate-range missiles in a matter of months, giving the kingdom its own, independent strike capability. Other Gulf states could pursue their own weapons program, setting the stage for a full-scale nuclear arms race in one of the world’s most voliatle regions.
If the Obama Administration is worried about that scenario, it wasn’t apparent on Sunday. There was the usual blather about the need to verify Iranian compliance and threats of additional sanctions if they don’t. But it was also clear the White House and State Department were very pleased with themselves. Never mind that Iran essentially got what it wanted and still retains a “break out capability” to develop nuclear weapons, despite negotiated caps on Iranian uranium enrichment capabilities and slowed development of a heavy-water nuclear reactor, which can be used to produce plutonium.
Some would say that the Iranian nuclear deal lessens the possibility of an Israeli strike, since the agreement has the support of the U.S. and its major allies. But we would make the counter-argument; facing Iran on its own, Israel has little choice but to mount a military operation. And apparently, it has some rather surprising allies who are willing to support that effort. Afterall, the U.S. “negotiated” its way to a nuclear-capable North Korea. Why will Iran be any different? Against that backdrop, Israel has no other option.