It would seem that the region is still dealing with the aftermath of the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the “father of Iran’s nuclear bomb.” This move was considered a major escalation in the confrontation between Israel and its allies, namely the US, and Iran.
Under President Donald Trump’s administration, Iran was subjected to the largest array of economic, financial and security sanctions in the long history of tense relations between Washington and Tehran since 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
The assassination of top nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh, which came nearly 11 months after the killing of the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qassem Soleimani, comes as part of a series of ‘mysterious’ attacks against ‘sensitive’ sites on Iranian soil, including in the heart of the capital, Tehran.
Similarly, the sabotage operation in the Natanz nuclear facility was a clear indication that Iran’s nuclear program would not be permitted to operate normally and that neither Israel, the US nor its allies in the region would turn a blind eye to Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
Furthermore, even as the US and Europe continue to stake out separate, clashing positions in this regard after Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, Europe realizes that its open back channels with Tehran do not mean that they will stand idly by, and let the Iranians take advantage of the division among P5+1 countries over the nuclear deal and allow Tehran to ramp up its nuclear activities to develop a nuclear bomb, or commit a major breach of the terms of the nuclear deal.
Nevertheless, Israel’s ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and an arsenal of high-precision missiles remain steadfast and a top priority for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, that is if he attempts to return to the nuclear deal without amendments, i.e. if he tries to turn the clock back to 2015 without taking into account developments in the Middle East region that have transpired in the meantime.
Although Biden said in a recent interview with NY Times journalist Thomas Friedman that returning to the nuclear deal will not be easy, he nonetheless did not stress the new changes that occurred on the course of the deal. The timeframe of the deal is very short, which is a fundamental weakness resulting from the rashness of both former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, who were eager to sign the deal to divert attention away from the deal’s shortfalls.
The Iranian high-precision ballistic missile program represents an existential threat to Israel and the Arab Gulf states, in addition to US military presence in the region. Furthermore, the Iranian-Houthi drone attack on Aramco facilities in Saudi Arabia represented a turning point emphasizing the need to address the threat of the program, which has become more dangerous than ever before.
It is worth mentioning Israel’s mounting fears due to the imminent danger posed by Iran’s relentless pursuit of establishing missile bases and high-precision drones in Lebanon and Syria, through smuggling parts and equipment, in addition to training Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated specialists to assemble missiles and technically direct them.
Another noteworthy point in this regard is related to Iran’s expansionist strategy from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, all the way to Yemen, which places the entire region under constant threat.
The above-mentioned matters represent key areas that the new US president’s administration will have to address, not by following in the footsteps of Obama’s approach of colluding with Tehran, but through a new approach that takes into account the developments that have taken place both regarding the nuclear deal as well as regionally in terms of the latest Arab-Israeli alliance.
This will be no easy feat for Biden especially with all the tense hotspots that the Obama administration left behind in the region. These matters cannot be overlooked when detailing a new US strategy in the Middle East.
The newly formed Arab-Israeli alliance is willing to do everything in its power to stop the Biden administration from falling prey to Iranian influence as in the Obama era. For the countries involved in the Arab-Israeli alliance, this matter goes well beyond regional relations or managing political disputes; the Iranian nuclear program presents a real existential threat, and the parties concerned will spare no effort to confront Iran’s hostile policies.
This is what’s different this time around.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Lebanese news outlet Annahar al-Arabi.