Obama tried to punish Israel and encourage Iran, leaving America’s Sunni allies with only Israel to turn to.
In one of the great recent examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences, substantial credit must be given to Barack Obama for helping to set the stage for the recent announcement of UAE – Israel peace deal, and the high likelihood of follow-on accords.
As knowledgeable and astute observers of the Middle East have observed, Obama’s embrace of the Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in scaring the daylights out of the Sunni bloc.
In the blink of an eye, the US went from being a stalwart defender to a fair weather and fickle friend. Seemingly gone was the American cavalry, so to speak, meaning the backbone of deterrence against an increasingly aggressive and imperial Iran.
Only one country continued its consistent and unabashed opposition to Iranian hegemonic aspirations, and that country was Israel.
With this realization the process of normalization was set to begin in earnest. Along the way, the more pragmatic, innovative, and big picture-oriented countries, such as the UAE, began to recognize that relations with Israel portended much more than just providing ballast against Iran.
Israel provides a way for the UAE and others to leapfrog into the 21st century, with technology partnerships and potential investments in a broad array of cutting-edge applications.
Amazingly, the deal with the UAE also represents a profound rebuke of the mantra-like assumption of Obama and the EU and much of the State Department nabobs that peace in the Middle East can only be had as a consequence of an Israeli Palestinian peace accord.
Some will seek to make the window dressing statements by Israel as to the two state solution and the eventuality of a Palestinian State, as either a reification of that pre-condition, or a selling out by Israel to the creation of a Palestinian State.
More likely however, I believe that all of this represents a perfunctory nodding of the head and tipping of the hat to the idea of a Palestinian State, as a way to project and protect the bona fides of the UAE and other would be peace partners that they still care oh so deeply about the future of the Palestinian Arabs.
No one probably understands the sham nature of this concern than Mahmoud Abbas himself, as he now is exploring the Iranian bloc as his best chance of staying relevant going forward.
The Iranians might be interested in courting Abbas, not because they care about the PA, but rather for the possibility of insinuating themselves that much closer to Israel. Precisely because of that prospect, it is highly likely not to pan out, as the Israelis would never tolerate it, and might use such attempted insinuation as a way to punish Abbas.
Apart from the PA, Israel’s pro-forma nods to a Palestinian State are in line with the post 2009 Netanyahu policy to recognize a Palestinian State that closely resembles Denmark. In other words, it’s not an imminent, nor mid term prospect to be much concerned about.
The UAE and others are probably rooting for a Trump re-election for they fear, with some good reason, that a Biden presidency would be a return to the Obama era status quo ante.
Indeed, Biden has said that he would seek to return to the JCPOA, the dreaded Iran deal, and this prospect alone should send shivers down Sunni backs. Of course, this state of affairs would only cement Emirate-Israeli ties all the stronger, for again Israel would retain its consistency, and would also find itself at odds with the Biden administration.
The great irony in all of this is that it was Obama’s desire to punish Israel, to put critical distance between the US and Israel, as well as traditional US Sunni allies, that he has helped to vaunt the Middle East into a new realm of alliances with former foes.
What Obama and the enlightened State Department types missed was the hidden resilience and pragmatism of the players. Obama saw static players, dependent on the largesse and security of the US. He mistook their obligatory denunciations of Israel as heartfelt, and could not envision a scenario in which former foes might find common ground.
The UAE-Israel deal is therefore a sign of a new geo-political maturity in the Middle East, and the harbinger of much more of a can-do regional self-reliance. The possibilities for extensive trade and investment with the UAE and others offer Israel a counterweight as it contemplates weaning itself from the double-edged sword of Chinese trade and investment.
The deal also buttresses US credibility as a reliable partner in the region, something that can only send a powerful message to China/Russia/Turkey/Iran. There is more than one way to project strength and leadership and the Trump administration has just given a powerful example of that to those who are trying to freeze the US out of the region.
As PM Netanyahu noted, the UAE-Israel deal is an example of making peace from strength, not duress. Realistically, both parties give up little or nothing, and gain a lot. The US can regard itself as a proud father to the deal, and stands to be a beneficiary as well.
And to think, this is all because Barack Obama was trying to punish us. Those looking for the presence, prevalence and power of mida kneged mida, measure for measure, in the world, need only marvel at this turn of events to see some great good coming from intended malice.