Saudi Arabia, Israel and Realpolitik

Ari Lieberman,

How Obama’s appeasement policies have prompted a fundamental realignment in Mideast alliances.

The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, revealed this week that Israel was prepared to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia in an effort to combat Iran’s expansionist agenda and malign regional influence. The unprecedented statement was made during the course of an interview with the London-based, Saudi online publication, Elaph.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have historically been bitter enemies. In 1967, just prior to the Six-Day War, King Faisal added his voice to the endless chorus of Arab leaders calling for Israel’s destruction. When asked by a British interviewer what sequence of events he’d like to see happen in connection with regional developments, he answered bluntly: “The first thing is the extermination of Israel.” 

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Saudi Arabia used oil in an effort to blackmail countries from engaging with Israel, causing long lines at the pumps and sending fuel prices skyrocketing. And over the years since, the Kingdom has pumped an untold fortune of petro dollars into the coffers of Israel’s genocidal enemies. 

But the changing times have made for strange bedfellows. Saudi Arabia no longer sees Israel as its enemy. Indeed, the Saudis now grudgingly view the Israelis with favor. The threat to the Kingdom now emerges from the east in the form of the malignancy known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Shia Iran has been waging a relentless proxy war with Sunni Saudi Arabia on several fronts and appears to be succeeding. The Islamic Republic has succeeded in creating a land bridge extending from Teheran through Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut and out to the eastern Mediterranean. 

They’ve also been fomenting unrest on the Arabian Peninsula by deploying proxy militias and agitators in Bahrein and Yemen, prompting Saudi Arabia to intervene militarily on behalf of those countries. Particularly troublesome is the situation in Yemen where the Iranians are backing the Shia Houthi rebels against the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. 

Thus far, the Iranian inspired Houthi insurgency has claimed 10,000 lives and over 40,000 injured. An Iranian success there could give the Islamic Republic control over the Mandeb Strait, a major maritime choke point. Iranian control over the Strait of Hormuz and the Mandeb Strait would have instant negative global ramifications. Much of the world’s maritime traffic would be held hostage to the whims of the mullahs. Oil prices would skyrocket while stock markets would crash.

The Yemen civil war has been a major headache for the Saudis.  On January 30, a suicide boat packed with explosives, and piloted by Houthis, plowed into a Saudi frigate on patrol near the Mandab Strait, killing 2 sailors and injuring 3. Houthis have also fired missiles – which were either intercepted or fell short of their target – at U.S. warships.

saudiisrael_small Saudi Arabia, Israel and Realpolitik Truth

In a marked escalation, on November 4, Houthi rebels fired a missile, possibly a Scud, at Riyadh.

The missile was supplied by Iran and the Iranians provided their proxies with the technical knowhow on how to operate it. Saudi air defense units intercepted the missile with a Patriot anti-missile system destroying it near Riyadh’s King Khaled international airport. 

On the very day that Iran’s proxies were firing missiles at Riyadh, Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s Sunni prime minister, resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia. Hariri, whose father was assassinated by Hezbollah agents in 2005, cited credible intelligence of an assassination plot on his life.

Lebanon’s constitution calls for a Sunni prime minister, a Christian president and a Shia speaker of parliament reflecting the fractious ethnic mosaic of Lebanon. Hariri’s departure dealt another deathblow to Lebanese sovereignty. The Hezbollah terrorist group, which is the dominant military force in Lebanon, has steadily transformed the tiny dysfunctional nation into an Iranian outpost on the Mediterranean. 

Hezbollah has completely absorbed Lebanon’s state institutions. Lebanon’s Christian president, Michel Aoun, was hand-picked by Iran and is almost certainly on the mullah’s payroll. The Lebanese military has increasingly acted as an auxiliary force for Hezbollah operations, and according to some reports, has allowed Hezbollah to pilfer its arms depots. Hezbollah and Iranian operatives have free rein at Beirut International Airport, which serves as a conduit for drugs, cash and arms destined for Hezbollah.

But most troubling for the Saudis and Israelis is Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which despite the Iran deal, remains a national priority for the mullahs. According to German intelligence, the Iranians, using front companies, have continued to make concerted efforts to obtain nuclear technology related to their militarized program. In addition, twice since the JCPOA went into effect, Iran exceeded its 130 metric ton limit for heavy water, which is used to cool reactors that produce plutonium. Clearly, the Iranians are testing the Iran deal’s elasticity. Thus far, there have been no negative ramifications for Iran’s transgressions.

Most troubling however, for both Israel and Saudi Arabia is the JCPOA’s sun set clause. After 8 to 10 years, most of the key restrictions on Iranian uranium enrichment taper off, providing the mullahs with a legal pathway for acquiring nuclear weapons. 

Saudi Arabia knows that despite Iran’s saber rattling and nefarious regional activities, Israel is by far the most formidable force in the Mideast. U.S. appeasement policies pursued by the Obama administration and its deleterious retreat from the Mideast forced the Kingdom re-think its long-held hostile views vis-à-vis the Jewish State, prompting a fundamental and historic realignment of regional alliances. Perhaps some good emerged from the Obama administration after all.