Armed diplomacy, sabotage and targeted assassination are the new normal. The secret war of Israel and the United States against Iran has gone beyond an open secret for some time now.
It has become a front in the new Cold War, in which the Biden administration wants to exert maximum pressure on the two states that support Tehran, China and Russia. Compared to Trump, Biden has broadened his targeting and enlisted the Europeans.
The pressure is being implemented on several converging fronts. These range from the proposal to have the Ukraine join NATO to the threat of US sanctions for the North Stream II gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, from entrusting the Alliance with containment missions against China to the opening of a Libyan front, which prevents another agreement between Erdogan, the ruling force in Tripolitania, and Putin, present in Cyrenaica with Russian mercenaries and with the ambition of possibly getting a new military base in the Mediterranean.
The sabotage of the electrical network of the Iranian nuclear plant in Natanz is attributed to Israel by the New York Times, which cites US intelligence sources: in short, Washington was aware of it, precisely at a time when Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel.
While the United States did sit down at the negotiating table in Vienna for the resumption of talks on the Iranian nuclear issue—a deal cancelled by Trump in 2018—it is also clear that the U.S. led by Biden and Secretary of State Blinken has chosen to play the part of the good cop, leaving Netanyahu to be the bad cop.
The attack in Natanz set the nuclear plant back nine months and weakened Tehran’s negotiating position: would anyone imagine that the Americans are not happy?
The negotiating table includes European Union, Germany, the U.K., Iran, Moscow and Beijing: technically, the U.S. are out the door, having left the agreement that is also an international treaty under the auspices of the U.N.
In practice, the Europeans are playing the role of “shuttle diplomacy” between Iran and the U.S.: it would be almost comical, if it were not such a dramatic topic, to imagine the faces of European diplomats who had to meet the Iranians after the sabotage of Natanz, of which the U.S. had obviously been informed.
In the same way, they knew about the recent attack on an Iranian ship in the Red Sea by the Mossad, given the presence of the American fleet in the region. Not that things are going so smoothly between Biden and Netanyahu: last week, during the Holocaust memorial, the Israeli premier spoke out against a U.S. return to the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration with Tehran in 2015.
But it would be another thing entirely to say that the Americans were being kept in the dark about Israel’s moves, especially since in the recent past the two states have pursued coordinated actions against Iran, from cyberattacks in Iran to the assassination of Iranian generals (Soleimani) and nuclear scientists. The coordination between the US and Israel is also official when it comes to the raids in Syria against pro-Iranian militias.
All this is cloaked under the usual Israeli-American rhetoric according to which “Israel is defending itself” and “the others” are an “existential threat” for the Jewish state. However, they should also explain to us why it is usually only “the others” who are ending up dead. And why the annexation of the West Bank, which keeps being touted by Netanhyau, is not an existential threat for the Palestinians in turn.
All this is part of the Abraham Accords, desired by Trump and confirmed in the essentials by Biden. It is about constituting an anti-Iranian front between Israel and the Gulf monarchies which would also be functional to other American objectives. First of all, the containment of Russia, which, together with Turkey, has been taking advantage in recent years of the vacuum left in the Mediterranean by the U.S. and the Europeans. It’s odd, but the best anti-Russian weapon the West has had is none other than Erdogan, whom Draghi recently called “a dictator.”
He is a dictator who suits us, as the prime minister admits, because he has opposed Putin in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus. In this sense, he has played his role as a member of NATO. But he is also the one who came to a deal with Putin in Syria, and he is one of the biggest buyers of Moscow’s gas and the Russian S-400 anti-missile system. So, as inconvenient as Erdogan is, he is still “convenient.”
Never a word, of course, about the Kurds, the political prisoners and the treatment of women in Turkey, just as Draghi and the other Europeans don’t dare to say the slightest word against Al-Sisi, responsible for Regeni and Zaki, who is buying our weapons and military ships and is flaunting the Legion of Honor he received from Macron. Is Draghi under the illusion that the Europeans will show him solidarity if Erdogan cancels his orders to Italian companies? Business is business, for them as for us.
To sum up: first there was a double standard, characteristic of American-Israeli policies in the Middle East, and now the double standard has also been embraced by the Europeans, who, in the new Cold War, have to play the role of the good cop, whether against Iran, China or Russia.