#WURDoftheDay: Why Does Trump Hate The Iran Nuclear Deal So Much? Ask Israel & Saudi Arabia About That
by Nida Khan | WURD Guest Contributor | @NidaKhanNY
If a casual observer looked at the turmoil in the Middle East, they would come to one naïve conclusion: this is all about religion.
The reality is far more complex and convoluted than one would believe.
Exhibit A: President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from — a.k.a. violate — the JCPOA or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or just better known as “the Iran deal.” Many Americans quickly concluded that this move was simply rooted in Trump’s desire to dismantle President Obama’s legacy. While that may have been part of the impetus for Trump, to suggest that it was the sole reason is just another example of the repercussions of American information isolationism.
The harsh truth is that the Trump administration’s move was really about two countries which barely get mentioned in this entire discussion: Israel and Saudi Arabia.
It is often stated that in politics there are no permanent friends, nor permanent enemies — just permanent interests. Nothing, perhaps, exemplifies this more at this moment than Israel and Saudi Arabia. On the forefront, they act as if they are on opposing ends of the spectrum on many issues, but their interests are more aligned today than possibly ever before (for various reasons of course). Both claim to be home base for two of the world’s greatest religions, and often utilize that dynamic for influence over their own people and those throughout the area and beyond. Dig a little deeper, however, and it’s clear that the underlying cause that unites both Israel and Saudi Arabia (and also the United States) is keeping Iran from gaining further power and influence in the region, period.
In March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, affectionately referred to as ‘MBS’, made a public relations/marketing trip to the United States where he met with Trump, other politicians, business leaders and … oh: reportedly with members of groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The same week that he was on this multi-city tour, the State Department approved nearly $1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Arms that are being used to kill civilians in Yemen with indiscriminate bombing that has resulted in death, destruction and currently the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia says they are fighting Iranian-backed Houthis, but the majority of casualties are civilians, and the dire situation that has emerged is nothing short of a catastrophe.
This proxy war of ours has left millions in need of urgent assistance — including over 11 million children. Over 10,000 civilians have been killed since Saudi armed forces began bombing in 2015, at least 18 million are food insecure according to the UN, and the resulting cholera outbreak has been the largest and fastest-spreading in modern history with over 1 million cases. The most powerful country in the Middle East is literally bombing the poorest country in the region with our assistance.
And all of this to stop Iranian influence.
A somewhat different (but equally horrific) dynamic is playing out in Syria where the U.S. is aligned with countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France and others (including rebels) against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia and, of course, Iran. Everyone is literally dropping bombs (or worse) — in fact, reports say a total of 16 international powers have launched air strikes on Syria since the start of the conflict seven years ago. Unsurprisingly, the ones suffering the most are innocent civilians who have been displaced by the millions and over 500,000 killed (most by the Assad regime, but many other groups also have blood on their hands). This virtual game of thrones once again boils down to who has power in the region — civilians be damned. And yes, these are the same civilians that are then on Trump’s Muslim ban, as are those from Yemen.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Israel launched dozens of rockets into Syria according to state media. Israel’s military said they were responding to Iranian forces in Syria — who they stated fired missiles towards its positions in the Golan Heights. This escalation is on the heels of already mounting tension.
About an hour after Trump’s announcement to leave the JCPOA on Tuesday, Israel bombed an Iranian weapons depot in Syria killing 15 according to reports. In fact, Israel has been bombing suspected Iranian outposts in Syria for quite some time; just last month, Israel reportedly struck locations in Syria killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranian.
The situation has now reached a point that should worry us all, thanks to hardliners all over. As this continues to play out, it’s important to keep in mind that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been quietly amassing his own power. A new law recently passed by the Israeli parliament gives the Prime Minister and Defense Minister the authority to go to war without seeking wider cabinet approval. That is a frightening development and a disturbing indication of democracy dwindling in Israel.
When Trump made his highly-anticipated announcement on Tuesday, he cited Israeli intelligence — not American intelligence. This ‘intelligence’ was what Netanyahu presented to the world last week with all kinds of charts, graphs and theatrics in dramatic fashion. Only problem is: Netanyahu’s presentation contained old information that American intelligence has known for years and prior to the JCPOA being implemented. The fact of the matter is that the deal has not only curbed Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, but it has also created the potential for economic opportunities for both Iran and corporations around the world. The idea that Trump cited this ‘intelligence’ and willfully lied to the American people with regards to inspections and more (just ask the IAEA inspectors) is a clear example of how the facts don’t matter — Only whatever agenda is in play does.
Trump’s first foreign trip as president was to Saudi Arabia, and one of his most controversial actions while in office has been to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (ceremonial opening taking place May 14th, by the way). None of this is a coincidence. As both Israel and Saudi Arabia continue to play pretend religious foes, they are both inextricably aligned with ensuring that Iran does not progress nor gain influence in the region. And the current United States government is doing everything in its power to facilitate that strategy.
So the next time someone argues that Trump withdrawing from the Iran deal was all about Obama, please tell them to actually look far beyond our borders. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, indeed.
NIDA KHAN is a veteran independent journalist and commentator who covers politics, the Middle East, issues impacting the Muslim community and more. Her work has appeared in such diverse outlets as The Huffington Post, CNN, i24NewsIsrael, U.S. News & World Report and more. She is also a regular contributor on WURD’s Reality Check and can be reached via Twitter @NidaKhanNY