ANALYSIS:
Biden's politics spell trouble for Israel

Major changes can be observed in the US administration's policy towards the Middle East. These changes worry the Israeli government and some of the moderate Arab states in the region. What has changed and how has Jerusalem responded?

Yochanan Visser ,

\US President Joe Biden
\US President Joe Biden
Reuters

Israel is very concerned about the US government under President Joe Biden, especially his intention to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

During the term of office of ex-President Donald J. Trump, the United States (US) left the JCPOA and started a so-called ‘’maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran.

That campaign brought the Islamic Republic to the brink of collapse, certainly in an economic sense.

New negotiations with Iran


The Biden government has now decided to initiate indirect negotiations with Iran in order that both sides return to a situation of compliance with the provisions of the nuclear deal.

However, this is inconsistent with an election campaign promise made by Joe Biden. The American President said during the election campaign that he first wanted to see the nuclear agreement tightened. Biden also said he wanted Iran to undo all Iran's violations of the JCPOA before there could be any renegotiations with Iran at all.

All of this is now off the table, apparently. This became clear after Rob Malley, the Biden administration's special envoy to Iran, said in an interview with US TV station PBS that the US will talk to Iran about returning to the JCPOA without adding any provisions.

"The goal (of the negotiations) is to see if we can agree on the steps Iran should take and what steps the US should take to return to full compliance with the nuclear deal," Malley said during the PBS interview.

Malley also announced during the interview that the Biden administration would unconditionally lift the sanctions that the Trump administration had introduced against Iran.

Anxiety in Israel

The statements of the US diplomat raised eyebrows among representatives of the Israeli government. They responded by saying that Malley's comments were "very disturbing".

"If this is official US policy then we are very concerned," said an unnamed Israeli government representative. “In the past, the Biden government talked about a longer and more vigorous deal, as if they wanted something different (regarding the deal with Iran) and that was no longer discussed in the interview (with Malley). It's all about going back to the original agreement,” said the Israeli government official.

He added that during the entire interview, Malley did not talk about the need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons nor did Malley talk about Iran's misbehavior (in the region) and the importance of consultations with US allies in the Middle East. The latest remarks by the Israeli government official were about Iran's ongoing efforts to increase its grip on countries bordering Israel, and about the behavior of the Biden administration towards the US's traditional allies in the Middle East.

Iran's aggression

Last week, during a telephone conversation with his American colleague Anthony Biden, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi emphasized the importance of including discussion of Iran's aggression in much of the Middle East in negotiations with Iran.

Ashkenazi was referring to what Iran is doing in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip, where Iran is the main sponsor of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In Lebanon and Syria, for example, Iran is attempting to increase its control over those countries and create a force that will eventually start a war against Israel.

In Lebanon, Iran is taking advantage of the huge economic and social crisis that is afflicting the country and, through its affiliate Hezbollah, is trying to stop the formation of a new government that would contain only technocrats. Iran wants Lebanon as a whole to come under the control of Hezbollah so that its ally can freely expand its activities, which are entirely directed against Israel.

The threat from Syria

In Syria, Iran is in the process of taking full control of the border area with Israel. In various provinces in southern Syria, Hizbollah is busy buying or confiscating real estate. This is done with the apparent approval of President Bashar al-Assad's regime and aims to provide Iran with a permanent foothold near the border with Israel.

Hezbollah is also trying to literally drug the local population, which is largely Sunni and anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah, through the sale of cheap hashish and narcotic pills. These pills are produced in 14 factories in Syria and they are under the supervision of Hezbollah. The drugs are even supplied to children and the proceeds of the trade go to Hezbollah.

Iran has also activated its ally Liwa Fatemiyoun, an Afghan militia brought to Syria by Qassem Soleimani, the assassinated commander of the Quds Brigade of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran.

Liwa Fatemiyoun is in the process of taking over large swathes of Syrian territory and has recruited more than 710,000 Syrians (!) to form an armed force since the beginning of this year.

As the civil war in Syria is almost over, one wonders why Iran's ally Liwa Fatemiyoun is assembling such a large force.

Multi-front war

The answer is that Iran is slowly working on its "Israel project". In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, the former head of IDF military intelligence, said Israel must now reckon with a war being simultaneously fought on four fronts.

These fronts are Gaza, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in charge and in the possession of state-of-the-art weapons such as long-range missiles, and Lebanon, where Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles aimed at Israel.

The other fronts are Syria and Yemen where Iran has provided the Ansar Allah or Houthi militia with ballistic missiles that can reach Israel. Ansar Allah was recently removed from the US list of terrorist movements by the Biden government and has since intensified its aggressive activities against Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, the US has also removed some air defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the Biden Administration has minimized contacts with the Saudi government.

Lack of contact with traditional allies

The same can be said about contacts with the Israeli government. Only one telephone conversation took place between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until now. An invitation for a meeting in Washington DC would have been normal protocol, but Biden has apparently not forgotten that Netanyahu had very close relations with ex-President Trump.

These are the remarkable changes in US government policy of which the unnamed Israeli government official spoke. It is painfully clear that the US is mainly focused on re-establishing relations with Iran at the expense of long-standing relations with its traditional allies in the Middle East.

Yochanan Visser is a Middle East Correspondent for Arutz Sheva



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