April 15, 2021

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Israel sets trap for new Arab allies 

TEHRAN – Israel has proposed to form a special security arrangement with some of the Persian Gulf’s Arab states, but the Israeli initiative was coldly received by Arabs, sparking speculation over whether Israel is trying to create troubles between Iran and its Arab neighbors.

In what appeared to be a crass move, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed that Israel intends to establish a “special security arrangement” with some of the Persian Gulf Arab states, who share common concerns about Iran.

During a visit to an Israel-Gaza border crossing, Gantz played down reports in Israeli media that Israel was considering a defense agreement with Persian Gulf Arab countries but said security ties would be pursued.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a defense pact, but we are going to develop defense relations with every country that we have relations with,” Gantz told Reuters.

“We have this process of setting up (a) special security arrangement, and within this arrangement, we can continue and develop our relations,” he said. Gantz declined to go into details on what such an arrangement would entail.

Gantz didn’t give details about this arrangement. But his comments came after Israel’s state-run television channel i24NEWS reported last week that Tel Aviv is “currently in talks with the kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing a four-nation defense alliance,” though Israel has no official relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli channel said the alleged defense alliance was likely a response to the alleged Iranian threat, especially its nuclear program and influence in the region. 

The Israeli initiative did not generate enthusiasm among Israel’s new Arab allies. Instead, they took it with a pinch of salt, casting doubt on Israel’s intention behind the initiative. 

Media outlets close to the United Arab Emirates, which appointed ambassador earlier this week, responded to the Israeli initiative by saying, in essence, that Arabs states do need an Israeli military presence in the Persian Gulf region, a move that could further escalate tensions in the region by inviting a strong Iranian response.

“The countries of the region do not need an additional military presence if the goal is merely to project deterrence,” the Al-Arab newspaper said in an article on Wednesday. The article was also published by the Arab Weekly, an English version of the newspaper that mainly translates and republishes Al-Arab’s articles.

Israel and the UAE normalized their diplomatic relations last September in a U.S.-brokered deal that sent diplomatic shockwaves across the world. Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv have committed to the exchange of embassies and ambassadors and to begin cooperation in a broad range of fields, including education, healthcare, trade, and security, according to a statement issued by the White House at the time.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump announced on August 13 that he brokered a “historic deal” between the UAE and Israel to normalize their relations, the first such deal between Israel and an Arab country since 1994. The last time an Arab country signed a deal with Israel to normalize relations was on October 26, 1994, when Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Following in the footsteps of the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan also normalized relations with Israel, sparking a wave of speculation over the formation of a potential Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran, which was portrayed by Israel as a common threat to Israelis and Arabs alike.

Iran rejected these speculations, underlining that it does not pose a threat to its Arab neighbors. Iran also warned these neighbors against any military or security cooperation with Israel aiming to hurt Iran. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the UAE against giving Israel a foothold on Iran’s doorstep.

“The rulers of the United Arab Emirates should know that they have gone in the wrong direction if they think that they can buy a security for themselves by getting closer to the enemies of Islam and Iran,” the president said a few days after the U.S. announced the UAE-Israel deal, warning that “unfortunately, the United Arab Emirates has made a big mistake and we hope it would change its wrong tack. We warn them against giving Israel a foothold in the region, then they will be treated differently.”

In addition, Iran also warned that it would hold the UAE responsible for any Israeli sabotage against Iran. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri announced at the time that the UAE bears the responsibility for any harm to the national interest of Iran.

Knowing this Iranian sensitivity, the Israelis sought to deepen their military and security ties with its new Arab allies in an attempt to entangle them in a dangerous escalation of tension with Iran. Since normalizing relations with Arab states, the Israeli officials have toughened their rhetoric against Iran, believing that such threats would resonate well with their new Persian Gulf Arab allies. 

But these threats are no longer sitting well with these allies because the Emiratis are now wondering if Israel is simply seeking to entangle them in futile brinkmanship with Iran and then leave them alone meeting their fate on the battlefield.

“Ambiguity surrounds the Israeli initiative amid questions related to its significance. Analysts wonder if the talk will lead to actual security arrangements allowing Israel to use Gulf bases as a launchpad to direct strikes at Iranian sites, or if instead, it will constitute only a loose front for an Israeli deterrence policy based on limited strikes as it is the case now in Syria,” the Al-Arab article said. 

In other words, the Emiratis fear that Israeli officials are only using tough language against Iran for domestic political reasons.

Citing defense experts, the newspaper said that the Persian Gulf countries do not need ineffective “security arrangements” that only carry propaganda value over normalization with the Persian Gulf countries.

“They point out that the countries of the region do not need an additional military presence if the aim is to issue warnings or deterrence threats to Iran, as these countries have their own air force capabilities that could play the same role, in addition to the presence of American forces stationed in different bases in the [Persian] Gulf, which have been in a watch-and-wait mode without striking at Iran.”

According to the newspaper, “Israel may be aiming less for an actual confrontation with Tehran than using the Iranian threat as a scarecrow to obtain regional recognition and break the psychological barriers that still hinder full normalization.”

The newspaper also wondered if Israel is only favoring limited responses to Iran over an all-out confrontation. Israel has issued threats against Iran, but it has never been in a position to follow through on them. It is using belligerent rhetoric to lure Arabs into its orbit or hoodwink them into a costly confrontation with Iran. Therefore, the Persian Gulf Arab states need to be aware of the trap Israel is setting for them.

Original News : https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/458772/Israel-sets-trap-for-new-Arab-allies

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