Over the last couple of days I have had numerous requests to comment on Vice President Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his running mate. I am sure you probably have a reasonable suspicion of my views on Senator Harris so I will table that discussion for now. Instead, I want to focus this blog on a unique development that took place last week that has major long-term foreign policy implications for the United States, and is an integral part of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda: the containment of Iran.
Before the Obama Administration was the Obama Administration, I was at an airport in New York (I believe) waiting for a flight back home. Since I was involved in the petrochemical industry at the time (and since I am somewhat of a foreign policy devotee), I was reading some commercial intelligence reports on daily political infighting that could potentially affect the price of oil. Stratfor, a left-of-center foreign policy think tank and private intelligence organization, had just issued a white paper on long-term US policy advisement on Iran.
I read it in earnest and was dismayed at its conclusions. Evidently, soon-to-be Obama advisors were also reading the same report… since the foreign policy objectives of the Obama administration, as it related to Iran, tracked nicely with Stratfor’s white paper.
Essentially it said the United States needed to begin a program of abandoning the alliance with Israel in favor of accepting Iran as the regional hegemon. They felt that the strategic value of Iran controlling the Middle East, and thereby regulating oil flow, was superior to maintaining our strategic partnership with the Israelis. It also added ad hominem that the Palestinians, as clients of Iran, should ultimately prevail in their real estate ambitions in Israel, but failed to articulate how this would benefit either the region as a whole or the US particularly.
I was somewhat dismissive of the paper thinking it was more of a leftist pro-Palestinian hit piece than a reasoned “real-politik” analysis.
Then Senator Obama became President Obama and began an agenda that tracked almost exactly along the lines of Stratfor’s proposal, ultimately culminating in Secretary of State John Kerry’s Iran nuclear deal.
Then something happened that was not supposed to happen.
Donald Trump became President Trump.
He was utterly unimpressed with the idea of elevating Iran to regional superpower status. Over the course of his presidency he has vocally asserted our commitment to Israel going so far as to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He canceled the Iran nuclear deal, tightened sanctions on Iran and, for good measure, helped usher out of the shadow combat theatre Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by dropping a bomb on him while he was making mischief in Iraq. (Hell had to make room for this “unique” individual, and while the President’s opponents clutched their pearls and made statements of protestations… much of the Arab world was thankful to see Soleimani retired with such extreme prejudice.)
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This brings us to the news of last week.
Last Thursday on Aug 13th, it was announced that the UAE and Israel had reached an agreement for bilateral recognition and the establishment of embassies, direct air flights, and trade and security guarantees. This deal had been brokered by the US and specifically orchestrated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The deal will officially be recorded as the “Abraham Accords”. The choice of this naming convention has relevance. Abraham, the Biblical figure who gave birth to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim nations, is now the reference point for bilateral relationships between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim countries.
As of this writing, Israel has bilateral security and economic relationships with Egypt and Jordan and, while there has been covert cooperation with the wealthy UAE for a number of years, this formalized relationship brings a third nation into the fold.
Being a peninsula state, it also minimizes the anti-Israel raison d’etre of other Gulf states.
This peace and commerce movement has a direct negative impact on Iran, and those non-nation state actors that rely heavily on the largess of Iran, specifically Hezbollah.
This brings us to another event that took place this month that may have been far more calculated than previously thought.
On August 4th, a massive explosion rocked Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Initially called an “accident” of a “fireworks” factory, most analysts now believe that a weapons cache exploded in the port city (unless modern fireworks displays now include tactical nuclear warheads).
As in China with the Wuhan Virus, in which many believe that a government operation went astray that lead to the release of Covid 19, citizens of Beirut are wary of the belief that it was a “fireworks” storage location, or as it has been postulated by Lebanese authorities, ammonium nitrate being stored next to fireworks. Hezbollah, the terrorist group, has all but admitted that weapons were being stored at the location. What is interesting is that the usual suspect of the Mossad (Israeli intelligence) has not been blamed for the explosion… which is typically a pro-forma default for all negative events that happen in the Middle East.
I believe that is because Israel was legitimately not involved (save for providing intelligence that the weapons were there). Instead, I believe the detonation was most likely caused by agents carrying out orders on part of the UAE, an action that directly benefited the security of Israel, was a devastating loss for Hezbollah, and seriously damaged the operational capabilities of Iran, finally paving way for the establishment of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE.
“The Great Game” is still being played, and will always be played… especially in the Levant, where the art of political intrigue has been played out since Moses took his people on a “walk about”.
Irrespective of my Jewish heritage, and my obvious affection for the State of Israel… President Trump deserves major kudos for placing our nation on a more rationally-based foreign policy that is, for the first time since WWII, placing the Levant on a pathway towards predictable peace and economic enhancement for all of her people.
While I might disagree with your style and language Mr. President, and you oftentimes leave me scratching my head as I struggle to find your underlying political philosophy… on this I must raise my glass of Lagavulin, take a puff on my cigar, and say to you… “Well played, sir!”