Murphy's Law: Israel And The Misleading Saudi Sign

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July 15, 2013: Recently released satellite photos of a Saudi Arabian ballistic missile base showed some of the launching pads (for the Chinese DF-3 missiles) touched up with arrows painted on the pavement, one pointing towards Israel and the other towards Iran. Mass media picked up on this and began running headlines of Saudi missiles (with a range of about 2,000 kilometers) aimed at Israel and Iran. That gave a distorted view of current Arab-Israeli relations. While the Saudis would certainly point their missiles at Iran, the arrow pointing towards Israel is probably their more to placate Saudi extremists than as an indication of Saudi military strategy.

For over a decade now, Israel has been building relationships, often in secret, with its neighbors, especially Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Although the decades of “hate Israel” propaganda in these countries makes it difficult to openly negotiate, the growing threat of Iranian nuclear weapons has made Israel an attractive ally for the Arab Sunni states threatened by Shia Iran. The U.S. is currently trying to broker a secret military alliance involving Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This would include giving Israel access to data from Arab and Turkish radar stations near Iran, while also providing these nations with data from the Israeli missile early-warning system. There would also be arrangements on how Israel could participate in defending its new allies if Iran attacked. Finally, there is the fact that Israel is a nuclear power and once this proposed alliance is revealed (or even if it is known but officially denied), Iran would have to worry about Israeli retaliation even if only the Arab Gulf states or Turkey were threatened. Thus, the Saudi missile base arrow pointing at Iran made sense, the arrow towards Israel was a sop to the many Saudis who have not updated their enemies list lately.

Thus, working out the details of this new alliance is the easy part, making it public and implementing it completely could be a problem. Arab governments have officially demonized Israel for so long that a large segment (probably still a majority) of their populations would react violently and be instinctively hostile to formal announcement of an alliance with Israel. Thus some of the diplomats involved are suggesting a secret treaty. This is not a new concept, as such secret deals have been used for thousands of years. But in the age of the Internet and speedy and abundant global media, such deals can have explosive consequences once revealed and are difficult to keep secret. The proposed deal would only be made public when it had to, as during a crisis with Iran. At that point, fear of Iran would calm many Arabs who would otherwise hit the streets to violently protest any deals with Israel.

This sort of deal making is not new. Israel has had official and unofficial arrangements with all these nations over the years. Jordan has been quite open about their security and intelligence arrangements with Israel, which go back over 30 years. The unofficial intelligence sharing has been more common over the last two decades. The reason is the growing threat of Islamic terrorism, although before the 1990s the Arabs were more concerned with secular Moslem terrorists. But these have largely been replaced by the religious fanatics, who still get a lot of unofficial support (cash and sympathizers) from Arabia, where most modern Islamic radicalism has been nurtured and encouraged for centuries. Many educated and entrepreneurial Arabs would also like access to the Israeli market (for goods, technology, and joint ventures). But the Arabs will have to work through their anti-Semitism first. The arrow pointing towards Israel shows that there’s still a ways to go.

 


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