Wednesday, August 18, 2021

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon

In the Times of Israel, diplomatic reporter Lazer Berman offers an analysis of how the Afghanistan fiasco could affect Israel:
Though the tragedy is unfolding almost 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) from Israel, it will have important ramifications for Jerusalem and the choices its partners and enemies will make in the coming months.

For Israel, which has tied itself snuggly to Washington for decades, the downsides are clear.

“When the US is seen as weak, in the simplest terms, it’s bad for Israel,” said Micky Aharonson, a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and former foreign policy director at Israel’s National Security Council.

The idea that the most capable intelligence apparatus in the world so badly misread a country it has been intimately involved with for two decades does not inspire confidence in America’s abilities to read and shape the region — especially after a string of high-profile intelligence failures in Iraq, Iran, Libya and more.

“Whenever the world’s most powerful nation suffers a humiliating foreign policy failure, it’s going to have far-reaching international effects, including for countries, like Israel, who have based so much of their own deterrence and national security on the credibility of their strategic partnership with the United States,” said John Hannah, senior fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

“If I’m a Saudi, or an Emirati, or a Bahraini, or others who have been close to America, I will want to do some thinking about my relationship with the United States, and whether it might be wise of me to begin to explore whether my survival will be better assured by cutting some sort of deal with Iran rather than rely on American support,” said Cliff May, founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a right-leaning think tank.
These experts have good points, but there is something missing in their analyses.

To the Arab world, the US abandonment of Afghanistan is not the epochal event that changes their opinion of the reliability of the United States. The Arab world already experienced a US government that was willing to abandon its Muslim allies - during the Obama administration. Then came the whiplash of a Trump administration that looked upon all relationships as transactional and not strategic. And now, Obama's Democratic successor is appearing to be as unreliable as Obama - but even less competent.

The four year presidential cycle is what makes America an unreliable partner. Afghanistan is just a data point.

The biggest difference in the region in the past decade is that Israel is now looked upon as the most reliable pro-Western superpower. Israel's new government is not pursuing foreign policy that is fundamentally different from Netanyahu's. To the Arabs, Israel is strong and reliable - unlike the US. 

In this sense, Israel is a beneficiary of the US debacle in Afghanistan.

It is true that the Arab nations have been hedging their bets by opening up channels to Iran. This wasn't in response to Afghanistan. This was because they fully expected Biden to be Obama 2.0. It doesn't indicate that they are pro-Iran, just that they want to position themselves for whatever happens. And they are strengthening relations with Israel for the exact same reason. 

Beyond that, the Arab world isn't stupid. The US' poor decisions doesn't affect its strength, its technological leadership, or its intelligence gathering capabilities (although it indicates that the analysis of that intelligence is sub-par.) Israel still benefits greatly from its strong relationship with the US in terms of weapons acquisition and development and signals intelligence (and perhaps human intelligence) in the region. The raw power of the US still benefits Israel tremendously, both in real terms and in optics. 

It is too early to say much more. Afghanistan will probably revert to becoming a haven for international Sunni Islamist terror groups. Their choice of targets will mean that they will be setting the agenda for the region. Uncertainty and chaos helps the terrorists. 

However, as Arabs noted often during the 2000s, Al Qaeda rarely targeted Israel - because of Israel's strength and resolve. Many Arab nations will want to be under that umbrella when they are directly threatened by whatever will become the new Al Qaeda.  Unlike the US, Israel is not perceived as someone who abandons her friends.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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