Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement, despite its IAEA-verified compliance, will have many consequences, and not only for businesses. First of all, the oil price will remain high, benefiting Tehran and Moscow. This is because of regional tensions, but also because the new US sanctions will hinder technological investments in the energy sector by European companies such as Total. Second, the Iranians are likely to end up in the open arms of the Chinese, who are able to buy their oil and supply them with everything they need, thus making a mockery of Western sanctions.
The consequences for the safety of the Jewish state also require careful pondering. Prime Minister Netanyahu and pro-Israel groups have been exchanging compliments with Trump, but after a few days they toned this down, as the situation appears to be degenerating to such an extent that the riots in the Golan Heights have prompted the US State Department to put out an alert to their citizens that these could turn into a war waged by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad’s Syria and Iran itself against the Jewish state. This possible scenario should not be downplayed, especially after the Israeli bombardment on Wednesday night, targeting Iran’s positions in Syria.
Military policy in Iran is not the prerogative of the moderate Rouhani government, but of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who is old and in poor health: the situation could end up getting out of hand. Now that the Islamic Republic is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary, in such a situation of instability, one cannot exclude the possibility of a coup by the Revolutionary Guard, which has long controlled the key political posts and a large portion of the economy. In preparation for the possibility of open warfare, the Israeli Defense Forces has activated a number of its reservists, knowing all the while that they can count on unconditional support from the Pentagon.
In the meantime, one is left with the impression that the leaders of Jewish organizations in the US are too far away from the Middle East to understand its complex mechanisms; or perhaps one can give a simpler explanation: they are not likely to end up in the front lines themselves. Two examples of this come to mind. The executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, had opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but in recent times had limited himself to proposing the improvement but not outright cancellation of the deal, while now he fears ”a wedge driven between the U.S. and our European partners,” of which “Iran would inevitably become an unintended beneficiary.” Then, the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Stephen M. Greenberg, called for a broader agreement, which would include a ban on short- and long-range missile programs, as well as other types of weapons. This, he said, would all be achieved by the threat of “sanctions targeting banking and energy sectors of the Iranian economy.”
Reading the statements of Harris and Greenberg, it is apparent that they do not realize that the deal with Tehran is a multilateral agreement reached after intense diplomatic negotiations, and one cannot simply renegotiate it adding an extra condition about the missile program. It’s not at all clear why, after they renounced their nuclear sovereignty, the Iranians should also give up their missiles, which they think of as a deterrence system in a Middle East that is armed to the teeth, in exchange for nothing except further sanctions.
A more clear-eyed view of the situation is offered by Professor Naftali Tishby of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whom we interviewed at a conference organized by SISSA, the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste: “I don’t think Trump has done the right thing: to break off the agreement creates a negative atmosphere in a Middle East that is already in flames.” He adds: “History has made us paranoid, and we feel threatened by the rhetoric of an Iranian leadership that does not recognize our state.”
Even though he is a man of the Left, like a great part of academia in Israel, Tishby is unhesitatingly “in favor of the surgical bombing of Iranian nuclear sites, like in Syria and Iraq. Unfortunately, these are well-protected, underground, located where they are difficult to reach by our aircraft.”
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