Ironically, the Israelis and the Iranians pursue an almost identical strategy: war-mongering rhetoric combined with the use of proxy conflicts that help them increase their leverage in the region and attain strategic goals. In reality, neither party is interested in fighting each other directly, nor is even seeking to put an end to "the threat" of the other.
If the "Iranian threat" were to be totally removed, Tel Aviv would lose its most cherished pretext, which is always at the ready for exploitation domestically, regionally and internationally. Similarly, if the "Israeli threat" and "resistance" were to be subtracted from Iranʹs discourse, Tehran would lose its powerful king in this regional chess game.
Feeding the spectre of war
The prime intention of the Israeli-American "Iran war process" is to engage Israel with the Arab Gulf countries. The core of this process is the manipulation of Saudi and Emirati fears, their resentment of Iran and the latterʹs increasing regional influence. An unspoken premise of the process is that Israel – and only Israel – can stand up against Iran, and thus the Gulf Arabs should succumb to its leadership with gratitude!
The trade-off for Israel is the gradual and public normalisation of political and commercial relations across the Gulf. The Israeli contribution to this trade-off is negligible to say the least. Realistically and in a nutshell, Israel would never fight a war on behalf of and for the Gulf States, nor would it risk its resources to serve their interests.
All this is helped by the short-sighted politics of both the Gulf countries and Iran, which effectively play out in the interest of Israel. If a fraction of their wasted effort in regional rivalry was spent in serious thought and diplomatic dialogue aimed at establishing security arrangements that safeguard their mutual interests, they would not have ended up being played off against each other by the U.S. and Israel. The enormous resources allocated for building military arsenals benefit none except American and Western manufacturers.
Figures indicate that the Gulf countries are spending more than $100 billion on weapons this year, not to mention the astonishing figure of $450 billion worth of military deals that the Saudis signed with Trump in 2017. It is no exaggeration to suggest that keeping the region boiling in conflicts, tensions and wars is a vital American interest.
Thanks to sky-high arms expenditure, money continues to pour into U.S. banks. The best way to protect these huge investments for years to come is to invest in a process that maintains the spectre of a Middle East haunted by war.
© Qantara.de 2019
Khaled Hroub is professor of Middle Eastern Politics at Northwestern University/Qatar.