Hugh Fitzgerald, A standoff – and unwise threats. As Israel and Gulf Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Bahrain – are discussing a NATO-like defense pact, Iran is predictably attempting to prevent it.
The warning to the Arab states by Iran’s former Defense Minister is reported on here: “Iran hopes Saudis, UAE, Bahrain ‘not foolish enough’ to strike defense pact with Israel, Israel Hayom, March 4, 2021:
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are “unlikely foolish enough” to enter a defense pact with Israel, Iran’s former Defense Minister and Expediency Council member Brig. Gen. Ahmed Wahidi told Russian outlet RT channel on Wednesday.
The statement followed a Reuters report that cited Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz as saying Israel “intends to develop a special security arrangement” with Gulf Arab allies. Wahidi was the first Iranian official to comment on it.
Wahidi, who is the head of Iran’s Supreme National Defense University, said that the “Zionist entity” was facing multiple crises, including a political one, which forced it to hold four elections in two years.
Let’s see. Israel is “facing multiple crises”? Israel’s economy is booming. It is expected to. grow by 4.2% this year; by comparison, the EU expects to grow only by 3%. Nearly every week there is news of a billion-dollar purchase of an Israeli start-up by an American company, of billions invested in the Israeli economy by Americans, Europeans, and now, as well, by those Arabs with whom Israel has normalized ties.
In energy, Israel has during the past few years, for the first time in its history, become a net exporter of energy — it sells natural gas, to Egypt, Jordan, and intends eventually to sell much of it in Europe. Its Tamar and Leviathan fields, contain more than 7.2 trillion cubic feet of proven reserves. Israel has just signed a deal to build a pipeline that will supply gas from its Leviathan field to LNG plants in Egypt; the liquefied natural gas will then be exported from Egypt to the European market. And another method of delivery will be the undersea pipeline that Israel plans to build directly to Europe from its natural gas fields. Israel is now the world leader in the use of solar energy per capita (3 % of the primary national energy consumption), and a leader in solar technology.
Israel is the sixth biggest seller of arms in the world; its sales have been increasing, especially in Asia; Israel now makes close to $8 billion annually from such sales. It punches far above its weight, competing with the likes of Germany, the U.K., and France. The technology of its Iron Dome missile-defense system, with over 2,500 successful interventions, is being copied by the U.S. Army.
Israel has performed vastly better in handling the coronavirus pandemic than any other country in the world; it has now fully vaccinated 90% of those over 70, and close to 60% of its adult population; other countries have clamored to find out how Israel managed this feat. Two European states, Austria and the Czech Republic, have entered into an agreement with Israel for the joint production of vaccines for variants of the COVID-19 virus. They’ve chosen Israel as their chief partner in coronavirus matters over their fellows in the E.U
This vulnerability, he claimed, was what prompted Israel to seek a defense agreement with the Gulf neighbors, who “do not have the capabilities and capacity to confront Iran.
Israel has long been sharing intelligence about Iran with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Bahrain. It does not need, but welcomes, even closer collaboration with those three Arab states. That might lead, for example, to Israel being permitted to position its planes and missiles in their territories, closer to Iranian targets.
General Wahidi is dismissive of the security pact, but clearly the idea makes him nervous.. If the Saudis and Emiratis by themselves do not “have the capabilities and capacity to confront Iran,” then presumably a powerful Israel will help make up for their present deficiencies. Israel has a huge defense industry, and the three Arab states have the money both to buy, and to bankroll further development of, advanced weapons from the Jewish state.
He threatened that “strong blows” will follow if the Gulf states decided to team up with Israel in confronting Iran and accused them of betraying the Palestinian cause.
The Gulf states have not “betrayed” the Palestinian cause. They have simply grown tired of the Palestinians’ endless demands for support, financial and diplomatic, and Ramallah’s insistence that the Arab states must put the Palestinians’ interest above their own national interest. The Emirates and Bahrain were infuriated by Ramallah’s reaction to their normalization of ties with Israel; Abbas described the Emirates and Bahrain as having “stabbed the Palestinians in the back.” But other Arab governments rallied round the offended states, and when Ramallah demanded that the Arab League condemn them, that demand was immediately rejected.
In threatening the Gulf states if they dare to “team up” with Israel, General Wahidi has undoubtedly driven them closer to the Jewish state. After his impolitic outburst, one can expect that a formal announcement of a security pact linking the four countries will be a matter of just a few months. That’s a demonstration of what we in the Infidel lands, General Wahidi, call “the law of unintended consequences.” How much more intelligent it would have been for him to have said nothing at all. But whatever other qualities the leaders of the Islamic Republic display – cruelty and fanaticism come immediately to mind — intelligence is not their strong suit.