Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the light of US President Obama’s much softened stance on Iran, has recently been quietly entertaining guests from some Arab states that are concerned about the rise of Iran’s growing regional hegemony. While none of these countries have diplomatic relations with Israel, all share an interest in diluting Iran’s influence.
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly recently Netanyahu stated that he was prepared to act alone against Iran in order to ‘prevent Iran building a nuclear weapon’. While President Obama is reluctant to take America to war again by attacking Iran, he has on several occasions suggested that Israel must do as it sees fit in its own defence and, furthermore, has said that he supports Israel’s right to defend itself. Obama has also said the ‘US will always have Israel’s back’, a promise, no matter what the circumstances, he is unlikely to back away from if push really came to shove.
Even though in public Obama, for domestic political reasons, seems to be far more desirous of a diplomatic solution than a military one with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, he would not hesitate to back Israel if it decided to take the unilateral route to attacking Iran though, of course, for the sake of public opinion, Obama would appear to do so reluctantly. However, as I have explained before, any action that Israel takes against Iran can never be truly unilateral; it must, at the very least, rely on US connivance and, just as importantly, US preparedness in the event of Iranian retaliation.
Despite Obama appearing to hold out hope for a diplomatic solution to what America’s intelligence agencies see as a non-problem, it should be remembered that behind Obama’s olive branch is a massive US military presence in both the Persian Gulf near Iran and in the eastern Mediterranean close to Lebanon, Syria and Israel ready to pounce to Israel’s defence at the first sign of an Iranian retaliation.
But before Israel goes off to attack Iran, while it knows it will have Obama’s backing, albeit discreetly, Netanyahu must also know where Iran’s neighbours stand – hence the talks with emissaries from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere.