Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
There is one simple way to better understand the political dynamics of the Middle East: Don’t listen to what people say; watch what they do. If nothing is being said then take it as a sign of agreement. Why the Arab media is silent over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington? The visit has been duly reported but without any analysis or criticism. Perhaps, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Israeli premier’s visit drew flak from the domestic media as compared with its Arab counterpart. Many top Israeli politicians, military and intelligence officials strongly criticized Netanyahu’s Washington visit. They were of the view that it would be counterproductive and might backlash. Interestingly, nobody in the American or Israeli media ever mentioned that there could be an invisible winner. You can take it from me that there will be one. Not long ago, I wrote two articles, “Mr. Netanyahu, don’t spoil the party” and “Does Tehran really need a nuclear bomb.” Let us talk about Netanyahu’s party and Iran’s nuclear bomb. During his visit to Washington, Netanyahu addressed two most influential political bodies in the United States — the AIPAC and Congress. His speeches were focused on a possible US-Iranian nuclear deal. Ironically, it is not only Israel that is upset with a possible deal between the two countries. Even Arabs and mainly the Gulf states are also puzzled. Who is more concerned? Is it Israel or the Gulf states? Many people around the world oppose acquisition of nukes by any country. Nuclear weapons are not a solution to any conflict. The volatile Middle East should be nuclear weapon free and the threat to the Gulf states from the Iranian nuclear program is genuine. Not because Iran might use its nuclear capabilities to attack the Gulf states but their main nuclear reactor in Bushehr is only 200km from the western shores of the Arabian Gulf. It is situated in an area in which if there is any nuclear mishap, then the contaminated air will affect Kuwait, Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE in less than an hour. Winds in this area always blow from the north or northeast. So, who should be more concerned about the Iranian nuclear program? We all remember what happened at America’s Three Mile Island, Ukraine’s Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima power plant. Nobody is fully aware of the true nature of the possible nuke deal. The truth is dictatorship and nuclear capabilities do not mix. But who is being harassed, threatened and intimated by Tehran? Is it Israel or the Gulf states and especially Saudi Arabia? I don’t think Israel is under threat from Iran no matter what the Iranians say or pretend to do. Talk is cheap. The Iranians' threats to Israel are just to gain popularity among the masses. It is Saudi Arabia, which faces the real and genuine threat from Iran. We saw this in their direct intervention in Iraq and support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Just few years ago, these Iranian-backed Houthis attacked the Saudi borders but were easily defeated. And let us not forget what Iran is doing in Syria or what it tried to do in Bahrain. Iran’s threat to Israel is a political gimmick. The Iranians know that people of this region can be easily manipulated by emotional rhetoric. Tehran knows that it does not face any threat from any of its neighbors. Iran can survive without raising the bogey of an imaginary foreign enemy. Iran’s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, would like to see their borders with Iran secured. And the Saudis want to spend their money on developing their country rather than spending it on preemptive security measures. But Iran is not helping. As a matter of fact, just few months ago, an Iranian official declared that Saudi Arabia is the number one enemy of Iran and not Israel. And we Saudis say to the world that Saudi Arabia is capable enough to defend itself from Iran, as the Saudi military is one of the most powerful and advanced in the area. Saudi Arabia is a peace-loving country but it does not succumb to dirty tactics. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Iran except that it does not show friendly gesture toward Saudi Arabia. And I also don’t agree with Netanyahu’s policies. But if his speech will delay or cancel the Iranian nuclear program, then let him talk as loud as he could either to the AIPAC, the Congress or at the Washington Monument. Oh, I forgot to mention that Israel planned an attack on Iran three months ago.