There is no other way to put it: The China-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a body blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to isolate Iran.
Netanyahu’s foreign policy goals have also been stymied by Israel’s multiple domestic crises, from unexpectedly strong left-wing opposition to his party’s court reform plans to a spate of shockingly violent attacks across Israel.
Netanyahu has long led international efforts to stop Iran’s efforts to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. His motive is not mysterious. Iran, in its state-run broadcasts, has repeatedly called for the end of the Jewish state and backed its words with actions, including funding proxy militias to kill Israelis, including Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran has also armed tribes in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Uniting Iran’s enemies against it has long been Netanyahu’s strategy. He has striven to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, hoping to make it the centerpiece of a security-based alliance of Sunni Arab countries and Israel. Now, that looks less likely.
To be sure, Israel will continue to coordinate with the Gulf countries on intelligence and air defense. The United Arab Emirates and other gulf states see an alliance with Israel as an additional security guarantee, now that America’s strength is questioned in U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan, a chaotic end to America’s longest war.
Nor will the freer movement of diplomats between Saudi Arabia and Iran automatically ease the tensions that have divided Riyadh and Tehran for decades. Each nation sees the other as a rival for regional dominance; sometimes that contest of wills mutates into armed conflict, as in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Iran remains an authoritarian threat to its own people and its neighbors. It is a regime that, just a few months ago, killed hundreds of Iranian women who sought to uncover their faces in public places.
China’s interference in the Middle East is empowering Iran