'Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli commentator, writing in Yedioth Ahronoth in May (in Hebrew), set out, unambiguously, the ‘deal’ behind Trump’s Middle East policy: In the wake of the US exit from JCPOA [which occurred on 8 May], Trump, Barnea wrote, will threaten a rain of ‘fire and fury’ onto Tehran … whilst Putin is expected to restrain Iran from attacking Israel using Syrian territory, thus leaving Netanyahu free to set new ‘rules of the game’ by which the Israel may attack and destroy Iranian forces anywhere in Syria (and not just in the border area, as earlier agreed) when it wishes, without fear of retaliation.
This represented one level to the Netanyahu strategy: Iranian restraint, plus Russian acquiescence to coordinated Israeli air operations over Syria. “There is only one thing that isn’t clear [concerning this deal]”, a senior Israeli Defence official closest to Netanyahu, told Ben Caspit, “that is, who works for whom? Does Netanyahu work for Trump, or is President Trump at the service of Netanyahu ... From the outside … it looks like the two men are perfectly in sync. From the inside, this seems even more so: This kind of cooperation … sometimes makes it seem as if they are actually just one single, large office”.
There has been, from the outset, a second level, too: This entire ‘inverted pyramid’ of Middle East engineering had, as its single point of departure, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). It was Jared Kushner, the Washington Post reports, who “championed Mohammed as a reformer poised to usher the ultraconservative, oil-rich monarchy into modernity. Kushner privately argued for months, last year, that Mohammed would be key to crafting a Middle East peace plan, and that with the prince’s blessing, much of the Arab world would follow”. It was Kushner, the Post continued, “who pushed his father-in-law to make his first foreign trip as president to Riyadh, against objections from then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - and warnings from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis”.
Well, now MbS has, in one form or another, been implicated in the Khashoggi murder. Bruce Riedel of Brookings, a longtime Saudi observer and former senior CIA & US defence official, notes, “for the first time in 50 years, the kingdom has become a force for instability” (rather than stability in the region), and suggests that there is an element of ‘buyer’s remorse’ now evident in parts of Washington.'
Read more: The Unraveling of the Netanyahu Project for the Middle East
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20 January 2019
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