Saudi-Iranian Peace Moves Dash Israel’s Plans – Especially If Egypt Is Drawn in
It was to be a celebration of Israel’s signal feat in catching Iran red-handed smuggling an illicit cargo of missiles to terrorists after the seizure of the Klos C by Israeli commandos last week. Yet Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sounded bitter and frustrated, when he spoke Monday, March 10, against the background of the 60 M302 missiles displayed at the Israeli naval base in Eilat.
“The world doesn’t want this ceremony to take place and it doesn’t want to see these Iranian arms that we captured,” he said.
After many years of silence, Netanyahu laid bare a highly sensitive issue when he said: “’Today Iran used shipping containers to send missiles; tomorrow they will be used to hide Iran’s nuclear suitcases.”
No Western figure has ever confirmed Iran’s acquisition from Ukraine eleven years ago of these nuclear suitcases, which enable terrorists to convey a small tactical nuclear bomb or a dirty bomb.
(More about this in HOT POINTS of March 10 below)
But the prime minister was disappointed by the low turnout. Although he invited dozens of ambassadors, military attaches and foreign correspondents, attendance was sparse and the event failed to gain much international media coverage.
The prime minister was also criticized at home, including by military brass, for hyping up the proofs of illicit Iranian shipments to terrorists, when Iran was blatantly airlifting much larger consignments daily to the Syrian army and Hizballah; and Russian cargo planes packed with weapons touched down regularly in Syria.
Netanyahu now sings solo against a nuclear Iran
The Klos C consignment captured by Israeli naval commandos on the Red Sea represented but a tiny fraction of the volume of illicit arms dumped on the Middle East in one week.
While Netanyahu deserves high marks for tenacity and courage as the lone voice still willing to speak out against the Iranian peril – both its nuclear dimension and sponsorship of terrorists – his voice no longer resonates. The world isn’t listening. It has moved on and come to terms with five current realities:
1. Iran can no longer be prevented from attaining a nuclear weapon, notwithstanding the solemn vows by President Barack Obama and Netanyahu himself to never let this happen.
2. Prospects for successful military action against Iran’s nuclear program fade as time goes by.
Iran has scattered its clandestine bomb-making facilities far and wide, so that even if some were demolished, the blow would not be mortal because others would remain to take over.
3. Reconciliation between the West and Iran is advancing at such a pace that sanctions are buried in the rush for normal relations with Tehran
EU Foreign Policy Coordinator Catherine Ashton, who also chairs the nuclear negotiations with Iran, said during her visit to Tehran this week that she doubted a final, comprehensive nuclear accord with Iran was feasible.
However, most members of delegation accompanying her to Tehran were European business men, there to keep appointments with Iranian counterparts for signing contracts.
4. The realization that President Obama has decided to divest himself of the effort to reach a comprehensive nuclear accord with Tehran and leave it to his successor – , first exposed by DEBKA Weekly last year – is beginning to trickle into influential Western and Middle East circles.
5. Two years ago, in August 2012, Netanyahu finally gave up Israel’s military option against Iran once and for all, under extreme arm-twisting by Obama. The world has since become inured to Netanyahu raising his voice against the Iranian nuclear threat like a modern-day Cassandra and never taking action against it.
Israel most fears the burgeoning Saudi-Iranian truce embrace Egypt
For the prime minister, the burgeoning Saudi reconciliation with Iran is the final blow.
Netanyahu had relied on Saudi Arabia being on the same wavelength as Israel on the Iranian question. For many months, its rulers tended toward action for curbing the Islamic Republic’s expansion across the Middle East and Asia. Israel’s political and intelligence policy-makers felt they could talk about this to likeminded colleagues in Riyadh
But with Prince Bandar out of the picture, Israel has lost its senior Saudi interlocutor. The Netanyahu government still has Saudi contacts, but of lesser rank and authority. And so, the useful areas of intelligence-sharing between Israel and the Saudis have contracted in volume and quality, and contacts in Riyadh are less easily available than they once were.
A senior Western observer of Saudi-Iranian relations commented ironically this week that Israel could stay in touch with Prince Bandar, who has gone to ground in Morocco. “But all they can do is to cry on each other’s shoulders and swap reminiscences,” he said.
Jerusalem’s biggest fear now, according to DEBKA Weekly’s sources, is that the Saudi-Iranian dialogue may gradually draw Egypt and its future president, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi into their embrace. After all, Saudi Arabia is Cairo’s main banker. El-Sisi will find it hard to say no if Riyadh wants him to sign off on an accommodation with the ayatollahs of Tehran, just as they forged a relationship between the Egyptian general and Russian president Vladimir Putin.