Opinion |

Trump Just Outed the anti-Iran Axis

Today, Tehran is very unhappy. But the Israel-Gulf accords can’t hide a dangerous policy failure on Iran, failing to contain its nuclear and conventional weapons programs, by both Trump and Netanyahu

Chuck Freilich
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President Donald Trump with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. September 15, 2020
President Donald Trump with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. September 15, 2020.Credit: Alex Brandon,AP
Chuck Freilich

Trump and Netanyahu can bask in an historic achievement, and an important contribution to regional normalization and peace.Whether or not others join, and eventually they probably will - including the big prize, the Saudis - this achievement stands tall on its own.

It is also an important step in creating a heretofore unimaginable American-led, Israeli-Sunni alliance against Iran. Given the UAE’s and Bahrain’s proximity to Iran, and the interoperability of weapons systems, one can only speculate on the possible areas of military cooperation. Tehran is very unhappy.

This article is part of a series: Ten experts break down the Israel-UAE-Bahrain accords. Read them all here

The agreements demonstrate the utter collapse of the Palestinian approach, the end of their veto over normalization between Israel and the Arab world, and their severe marginalization. It increasingly looks like they have missed their historic opportunity to achieve a two-state solution. 

In typical form, Hamas in Gaza chose to celebrate the occasion by sending us 13 rocket reminders that the agreements do nothing to address the Palestinian issue, the number one issue facing the State of Israel. 

Tragically, the Palestinians’ failure has severe ramifications for our own national future as a Jewish and democratic state. At least the irresponsible, self-defeating idea of annexation is now off the table.

Netanyahu returns to his unbridled ongoing political/legal battle to avoid a jail sentence. The now indisputable fact that he sold annexation and the F-35s to get the UAE deal, will further exacerbate his credibility problems with his right-wing supporters. 

Netanyahu also returns to the worst health and economic crisis in Israel’s history, largely of his own making, with the economy tanking even before the upcoming lockdown. The government has expended most of the economic "ammunition" at its disposal and the national crisis will further deteriorate.

The "outing" of the anti-Iran axis, notwithstanding, the agreements cannot hide the overall failure of Trump’s and Netanyahu’s policies towards Iran. 

Iran is now much closer to a nuclear weapon than when Trump took office, just 3-4 months from having sufficient fissile material for a first bomb, and Trump failed abysmally to gain a Security Council extension of the ban on conventional weapons sales to Iran. 

Moreover, Trump, who has almost been begging Iran to sign a new deal, further exposed the differences between his position and Netanyahu’s, by choosing the joint photo-op, of all times, to repeatedly stress his intention to reach a "deal that is great for Iran." 

Should Joe Biden be elected, there will still be notable gaps between the U.S. and Israeli positions on Iran. But on the Palestinian issue, if Netanyahu stays in office, the gaps will grow far further. 

Chuck Freilich, a former deputy Israeli national security adviser, teaches political science at Columbia and Tel Aviv universities. He is the author of "Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change" (Oxford University Press, 2018). Twitter: @FreilichChuck

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