Checkmate

Well, it’s a done deal in Geneva. This fact may bother Prime Minister Netanyahu and some other world leaders but it really puts a wrinkle in my Chanukah preparations. I had another column ready to roll but the P5+1 and Iran came quicker to terms for a short-term nuclear pact than I had expected. The agreement came out before my deadline so what I thought was a cutting edge column suddenly was literally yesterday’s news. So much can change in the course of a weekend. It was only last week that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini said the Jews of Israel “cannot be called humans, they are like animals,” and that Israel was “the rabid dog of the region” during a breather in negotiations, and this week he is about to be given a hug and $7 billion (the lowest estimate; highest being $40 billion) and retain imminent nuclear capabilities.

Khomeini’s description of Jews, I suspect, is to be taken on two levels: first, quite literally, as Khomeini and much of the Muslim world believes this view; and secondly, as a trial balloon — gauging the international community’s response to the verbal abuse Iran was meting out against Israel. Iran got its answer: The world couldn’t care less. I mean who cares what this clerical lunatic says about Israel? Certainly none of the P5+1: Not Germany, which is responsible for the murder of six million Jews, nearly the same number that inhabit Israel today and now live with a nuclear sword of Damocles above their heads; not Russia, which itself was the world leader in persecuting Jews for centuries; not China, as they are the quintessential oxymoron: the most capitalist/communist country in history; Britain certainly doesn’t care, despite the fact that its colonial policies, a root cause of this mess, are still reverberating throughout the region long after the sun set on the British Empire;  and nor does France, which was an ally to Israel and held firm for an entire week, which may be a new record for Gallic resolve. That covers the P5. The “+1” this week would be the United States. Does the United States truly care what Iran says about Israel? The silence in the immediate aftermath of the Ayatollah’s spewed bile betrays U.S. indifference. In the United States calculus of realpolitik, Israel has changed from a strategic ally, its best in the region, to a strategic liability readily jettisoned.

American indifference to Israel is not limited to Iran and its “breakout capability.” United States foreign policy is dismissive to Israel’s concerns with Iran, the European Union and its sanctions, and with the Palestinians. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are deaf to Israel’s national concerns; Kerry chastised Israel earlier this month, threatening it with economic and political isolation and a third intifada. Kerry would be wise to remember the social rule that a guest should never under any circumstances talk politics, as his words are fingernails on a chalkboard not merely to Israel but to the entire region. During the course of a week he offended the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Saudis, creating unanimity among enemies: no one likes him.

Despite constant assurances that Israel’s security is of paramount importance to America, it is apparent that a United States directed by President Obama has neither the will nor the integrity to assure Israel’s safety. The United States conducted a half-dozen back-channel negotiations with the Iranians since last March while denying to the Israeli government that such meetings were taking place. Israel, through its own sources, became aware of this series of negotiations months before the United States officially informed her of their existence. Even among allies not all secrets are shared. The November negotiations in Geneva, it turned out, were more about final touches than substance. In surprising Israel and negotiating weak terms with Iran, the U.S. has placed Israel in existential danger. The United States has been duplicitous throughout its dealings with Israel during the Obama years and is far from a dependable ally in dealing with Iran, or an honest broker in dealing with the Palestinians. At this moment, on the specific issue of preventing Iran from reaching nuclear capability, Israel has a greater basis of trust and alliance with France and Saudi Arabia than with the United States.

A less-talked-about motivation for the lessening of sanctions with Iran is the worldwide recession and the desire of the negotiating nations to gain a financial foothold in Iran — call it a “capitalistic colonialism.” Of the P5+1 countries, the nation with the least to gain and the most to lose financially is France because they are so deeply invested in Saudi Arabia. For the French to exploit this agreement with the Iranians financially would only anger their real cash cow, the Saudis.

Israel is more vulnerable now than it was before the signing of the agreement with Iran. Though no one is sufficiently deluded to think that this “glorious” document is on the same scale as Neville Chamberlain’s claim that the Munich Agreement of 1938 achieved “peace in our time,” nonetheless it is clear that the slope is slippery and the world is pushing Israel onto it. Despite Netanyahu’s declarations that he will not be constrained from taking action, unless some dramatic event or revelation changes the political landscape, for the next six months Israel will be constrained from attacking Iran. If Israel were in fact to strike proactively without the support of a smoking gun as clear evidence of Iran significantly violating the agreement, Iran would be cast as the victim and Israel would be cast out of the community of nations.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel opined, “I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel.” He attributed Iran’s coming to the negotiating table as a result of the persistent and constant pressure that Israel has brought to bear. If he is correct this would be tragically ironic as Israel was steadfastly against any and all negotiations with Iran at this time and attempted to prevent them. Accepting this assessment, Israel can be blamed both for starting and trying to sabotage the negotiations.

Until this whole nuclear kerfuffle, Iran was best known for four things. The first is the ancient Persian civilization which conquered much of the known world; the second is terrorism which threatens much of the even larger known world of today; and the third is selling its famous Persian carpets. Synthesizing this legacy of utilizing strategy, verbal or violent, to achieve an end produces the fourth and greatest legacy of the Persians and that is chess of which they clearly remain the masters.


 

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com