The Biden administration debacle in Afghanistan has convinced America’s enemies of the administration’s weakness and vulnerability. The timing of Vladimir Putin’s march on Ukraine is undoubtedly connected to the perception in Moscow of Washington’s lack of will to engage in a confrontation. Communist China is astutely waiting for the right time to seize Taiwan. Should Moscow achieve its objectives, Xi Jinping, China’s dictator would follow Putin’s example and act, knowing full well that the Biden administration would pay lip service to the violation of Taiwanese sovereignty, and perhaps demand UN sanctions, but ultimately, Washington would live with the new reality.
The radical and theocratic Ayatollahs also sense an opportunity to take advantage of the Biden administration’s willingness to have a deal at all costs, and thus have been successfully pressing their demands, and it appears that the Biden administration might cave in. Tehran also realized that there will not be military consequences from the US with their continued advancement toward a nuclear bomb. Iran continues to develop its ballistic missiles range and payload, to possibly carry a nuclear device. At the same time, the Iranians have continued their adventurism and terror throughout the region. Tehran also considered the fact that North Korea has never suffered the military consequences of becoming nuclear. Economic boycotts by the West are clearly no longer a deterrent against Iran, North Korea, China, or Russia.
In the Middle East, the Sunni-Arab Gulf states have already perceived the Biden administration’s withdrawal from the region both as a sign of weakness and thus increasingly viewing the US as a questionable protector. On his recent (February 3, 2022) trip to Bahrain, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Bahraini counterpart. It is a Security Cooperation Agreement, an expression of Israel’s interest in forming a NATO-like alliance in the region, meant to be an anti-Iranian regional alliance, in the same way NATO served as an anti-Soviet Union alliance. In both cases, the idea is to forestall Iranian expansionism in the region, to counter its aggressive and maligning force. Bahrain is a small nation with a majority Shiite-Muslim population, but ruled by Sunni-Muslim monarchy that has been under periodic threats from Iran. In the past, Iran claimed Bahrain as part of its Fars Province.
In late November of 2021, Gantz visited Rabat, Morocco, to sign a similar agreement he had signed in Manama, Bahrain. In late January 2022, Gantz traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with an Israeli delegation of senior security experts to examine how Israel could help the Emiratis with an advance warning system, and the interception of missiles and drones. The Houthis, Iran’s proxies, had previously attacked the UAE with drones launched from Yemen. It stands to reason that similar visits to Saudi Arabia took place, albeit clandestinely. As the custodians of Islam’s holiest sites of Mecca and Medina, the Saudis are hesitant to establish open diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Still, their regional rivalry with the radical and revolutionary Iran, and the historical animosity of Sunni-Muslim Arabia toward Shiite Iran, makes an anti-Iranian security cooperation agreement with Israel rather likely. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has initiated a rapprochement between the Saudis and Iran as a way to facilitate the talks with Iran on the renewal of the nuclear deal.
While Israel has proven its military and intelligence capabilities on multiple occasions, Israel does not have the global capabilities and reach that the US possesses as a superpower. But, as the US apparent departure from the Middle East nears, and as it is re-focusing on China and Asia Pacific, a regional Middle Eastern alliance, anchored in Israel and inclusive of the moderate Sunni-Muslim states constitutes a force multiplier, which Iran undoubtedly fears.
Omar Rahman, in a Brookings Report (July 21, 2021) wrote: “The UAE views Israel as a formidable regional power that shares its views (JP- The view is that Iran is the cause of regional instability, and together with Turkey is meddling and intervening in the region. And, Israel also shares with the UAE concerns over the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, backed by Turkey and Qatar. For Israel, one of these affiliates is Hamas in Gaza) and is willing to act forcibly to counter regional adversaries.”
Iran’s apparent strategy seeks to push the US out of Iraq, and ultimately out of the region. In the Ayatollahs view, the exit of the US from the region is an essential condition for tipping the balance of power in the Middle East in their favor, and it is imperative for Tehran’s quest to impose its hegemony in the region. It is therefore vital for the US to “deputize” Israel as the security anchor for its regional partners, i.e., the Arab Gulf states in particular, while Washington is dealing with its greater challenges, namely China and Russia.
A NATO-like Middle Eastern alliance of Israel and moderate Sunni-Arab states, especially the Gulf states, should also include the US, albeit, without necessarily the commitment embedded in NATO’s Article 5, which calls for collective security. Few Americans would support a US commitment in such a volatile region as the Middle East. The inclusion of the US in such an alliance would strengthen it significantly, and would have a deterrent effect on expansionist and terror-sponsoring states like Iran. Just like NATO served as a deterrent against the Soviet Union and now Russia’s expansionism in Europe, the Middle Eastern alliance would serve the same purpose against Iran.
The Trump administration had planned to establish a Middle East Strategic Alliance – anchored by a united Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to advance security, prosperity, and stability. Now, however, as the Abraham Accords have brought about close economic and security relations between Bahrain, UAE, Morocco, and Israel, it is essential the Jewish state play a major role in such an alliance. With Israel involved in the alliance, the prospects of materializing such objectives as security, prosperity, and stability are greatly enhanced. Egypt and Jordan might also be included in such a strategic alliance.
Maj. General (Res.) Amos Gilad, executive director of Reichman University Institute for Policy and Strategy-IPS has written under the headline, “The American Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Lessons and Ramifications for Israel,” (August 2021), pointing out that the “American withdrawal from Afghanistan is a formative event whose projection strategically will reverberate for many years to come. Israel must prepare immediately, together with the Biden administration, for challenges that are around the corner – first and foremost, due to the ‘tail wind’ the Afghanistan withdrawal has created for extremist forces in the region; and parallel to this, leveraging opportunities to upgrade relations and cooperation with Arab states.”
Maj. Gen. Gilad’s apparent conclusion confirms the idea that Israel, in coordination with the Biden administration, must carry out the vision of a Middle East Strategic Alliance anchored by Israel.