Tom Friedman of the New York Times wrote an interesting op-ed about an impending war between Iran and Israel.
Iran has become the greatest occupier in the Middle East. It’s currently entrenched in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. All this is a prelude to an inevitable showdown with Sunni Arabs in the region.
Simultaneously Israel is no longer the most important focus of a swathe of the Arab world. It’s now mostly Sunnis against Shiites.
Saudi Arabia has already indicated that it’s willing to work with Israel in its struggle with Iran. This change in emphasis is not coming easy to the Saudis. Great mistrust still exists, and the Saudis remain committed to the rights of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. At some point peace between Israel and Palestine will be necessary to foster normal relations between the Saudis and the Israelis.
Iran is now the most dangerous threat to Saudi Arabia. Radical Shiite leaders in Iran have targeted Sunni strongholds for violence and destabilization. The centuries old conflict between the two sects of Islam supersedes all other issues. Many believe that in the long run only one of them will survive.
Sunnis have a large advantage in membership and financial support from oil producing countries. But the ayatollahs, with the help of a previous US administration are poised to gain ground if they ultimately develop a nuclear capability. The controversial nuclear deal is the most critical existential threat to the Saudis and its Arab allies in the Middle East. Unfortunately the previous Obama and company were so intent on doing a deal with Iran that they miscalculated the extraordinary influence that a nuke will afford to Iran versus all its neighbors.
At the same time Iran is focusing on Israel. The latter is determined to not allow Syria to become a belligerent neighbor like Lebanon, which is a launching site for rockets directed at Israel.
Recently the Israelis shot down a drone that carried weapons and entered Israel airspace. A short time later Israel launched an attack in Syria that killed Iranians near the border. Tensions are ramping up. The confrontations are no longer by proxy. Israelis and Iranians are going head to head.
The US is committed to the security and well being of the State of Israel. It should do whatever possible to foster relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, while strongly indicating that it will protect Israel from any aggression. Nevertheless the odds of more violent encounters between Israel and Iran are high, especially in the light of the new axis consisting of Iran, Russia and Syria.