August 1, 2016:
Misunderstandings and misinterpretation are common in the Middle East, which is one reason it been such a violent region for so long. There was a recent example of that when anti-Semites throughout the Arab world were outraged as details emerged about the April 2016 deal that had Egypt give Saudi Arabia two uninhabited islands (Tiran and Sanafir) at the entrance to the Red Sea. What upsets so many anti-Israeli Arabs is the fact that those two islands are mentioned in the 1978 peace deal between Egypt and Israel. While the Saudis were not a party to that treaty they did quietly agree that they would honor any agreements between Egypt and “the international community”. In the case of the 1978 treaty that involved Israel. Since then the Saudis and Israelis have grown visibly closer. In the case of Tiran and Sanafir the Saudis made it clear that Israel would continue to be guaranteed free passage in and out of the Red Sea. For decades Egypt and Saudi Arabia kept naval forces in the Red Sea to confront Israel. But since the 1978 treaty Egypt stopped doing so and now it has been noticed that the Saudis have as well.
This openness about links between Israel and the Gulf Arabs became obvious in mid-2015 when Saudi Arabia came out and publically agreed with Israel about what was wrong with the Iran treaty. Up until then it was widely known in the region that Israel had developed more than casual relationships with many Arab states. At the time the issue was the new treaty that removed most sanctions from Iran. The Israelis, Saudis and other Gulf Arabs agree that Iran is more likely to behave like North Korea or Saddam ruled Iraq rather than comply with the treaty and pull back on getting nukes before the end of the “no-nukes” period. Inside Iran the new treaty is seen as a great victory and on the streets (and on the Internet) the average Iranian sees this as their well-deserved opportunity to get their nukes. Senior American military leaders are also not happy with the new treaty, some of them going so far to point out that Iran backed Islamic terrorists killed over 500 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Israelis and Saudis can also point to citizens killed by Iranian terrorism. Gulf Arabs in particular are reminded regularly that Iranian propaganda still praises and encourages that sort of thing. Israel reminds everyone that Iran still holds national holidays where millions of Iranians are urged (sometimes coerced) to gather and chant their hatred for the United States and Israel and call for the destruction of these two enemy states. Many Gulf Arabs still call for the destruction of Israel, but their leaders now openly speak of Israel as a valued ally in the struggle against Iranian aggression.
None of this ongoing Iranian support for terrorism was addressed in the new treaty. The sanctions will be lifted gradually, over many (up to 15) years as Iran is verified to have done what it agreed to in dismantling its nuclear program. But the immediate benefit it the unfreezing of over $100 billion in foreign assets and the ability to freely export oil. Thus the most immediate benefits of the treaty (if approved by all parties) would be the Iranian economy and the average Iranian. More cash also means more money for Iran to quietly use to support terrorism abroad and bribe people in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The civil war in Syria and the growth of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) also led Turkey to repair relations with Israel. Because of the ISIL threat Egypt and the Gulf Arabs substantially improved their existing relations with Israel. Turkey, Egypt and the Gulf Arabs all had developed links with Islamic terror groups over the years but by 2015 realized that Israel was a better ally and certainly less dangerous than Islamic radicals (like al Qaeda and ISIL) that called for all governments in Moslem majority to be replaced by a religious dictatorship. By early 2016 the GCC openly agreed with Israel that Hezbollah was indeed a terrorist organization.
Even before 2015 unofficial diplomatic and intelligence sharing relationships with the Gulf Arabs were becoming better known. By late 2015 even Turkey was working to improve its relationships with Israel. This was a major turnaround by the Turks. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador in 2011 and relations between the two countries had been going downhill since 2007. That was when the AKP (Islamic Justice and Development Party) won reelection and party leader (and Turkish president) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to turn on Israel in order to increase influence in Arab countries. It soon became clear that this was not working out so well but the AKP leaders were not willing to back down. By 2011 Turkey had cut most of its extensive diplomatic, economic and military ties with Israel. It took four more years of Islamic terrorist violence inside Turley and isolation from Israeli economic and military cooperation, to change enough minds in the AKP (which is still Islamic).
After the Arab Spring uprisings in Syria turned violent in 2011 Turkey tolerated Islamic terrorists travelling to Syria via Turkish territory as long as this was to fight the Syrian government (Assad) forces. The Turks and the Assads had never got along well and since AKP came to power Turkey has been trying to support efforts by Moslems to “defend Islam” against heretics (like the Shia Iranians, Syrians and Lebanese), Israel and the West. But this backfired and now Turkey is trying to mend relations with Israel, Russia, Egypt and the West. At the same time, Turkey still considers the Assads a greater threat than ISIL or Kurdish separatists. In the Middle East the oil may eventually run out but the disagreements worth killing and dying for are most definitely a renewable resource.