Slouching Towards Jerusalem

Map of the Golan Heights
Map of the Golan Heights

The Obama Administration may have convinced itself that an Iranian military presence in the Syrian Golan Heights is no big deal and might even represent a positive development, one that might eventually force both Iran and Israel to reconsider the nature of their antagonistic relationship. A simple and rational cost-benefit analysis, or so the thinking seems to go in this regard, should in time encourage both sides to agree on some kind of détente, one that could pave the way for formal recognition, and even, cooperation in the not-so-distant future.

But, and while both sides are indeed quite capable of rational thinking and are not inhibited by the kind of parochial and nihilistic mindset that seems to plague other Middle Eastern establishments, as is the case with the Assad regime for instance, whatever rational analysis either side will undertake vis-à-vis the other is bound to be informed by its particular historical experiences, especially those of the Modern Era. This is what the Obama Administration seems to be missing here. Both sides have ample reasons to be paranoid and to insist on dealing with outsiders, not to mention declared enemies, from position of strength, if not overwhelming strength.

Moreover, and regardless of how things were in prerevolutionary times, Iranian culture is currently steeped in anti-Semitism, which makes the idea of having Israel accept coexisting with an Iran boasting an advanced nuclear program, outposts close to the Israeli borders in Syria and Lebanon, and cordial relations with Hamas quite unreasonable from an Israeli perspective and untenable as a policy objective for the U.S.

On the other hand, and no matter how rational Iranian decision-making is or seems to be, the ongoing struggles within the Iranian ruling establishment coupled with the implosion of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and the burgeoning implosion of other states in the region is bound to lure Iranian leadership to press its advantage a bit too much, not only as far as Israel is concerned, but also other regional players such as Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even the seemingly far away Morocco, and beyond.

Yet, considering how the Obama Administration is handling the Iranian nuclear file, there are legitimate reasons to fear that by the time observers in the U.S. realize that Iran has simply grown too powerful, stopping or “containing” her will have become a far more complex and dangerous undertaking. Israel’s leaders seem quite aware of this probability and of how is fast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and are understandably quite concerned. But the clash in the increasingly problematic visions and leadership styles between Obama and Netanyahu is making it well-nigh impossible for the two countries to reach an understanding on how better to address these concerns in the coming years. This does not bode well for the future of the region, or for global security considering the impact on a variety of “hot files,” such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism and energy costs.