President Obama has made Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states an offer: Get behind me on the Iran deal and I'll give you an umbrella — a security umbrella in the form of advanced weapons and equipment. The offer, Israel's Channel One reported on Friday, is part of an attempt to get the Iran deal signed and sealed before the 2016 campaign season swings into high gear.
Both the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and Israel are openly opposed to the Iran deal, which backtracks from the administration's original commitment to dismantle Iran's nuclear infrastructure. These pro-Western allies have lost confidence in U.S. assurances that "we have your back" and are scrambling to figure out how to combat the Iranian threat on their own.
Obama is dangling compensation packages that could aid the GCC states and Israel in this endeavor — in return for the withdrawal of their opposition to the Iran deal.
Will either fish bite?
On April 20, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed met with Obama to discuss the agenda of the upcoming May 14 meeting between the U.S. and the GCC states at Camp David. Sheikh Mohammed asked the president to formalize the U.S.-GCC security cooperation through a treaty that defends the GCC against aggression, but the White House refused. Instead, Obama offered to provide advanced weapons systems, training and joint military exercises. Following the meeting, the GCC continued to express concerns about the Iran deal, and — in an unprecedented step — persuaded the Arab League to begin assembling a pan-Arab military force.
Now, while President Obama will warmly welcome the GCC states to Washington to discuss the deals, the president is going to try to keep Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE as far away from the White House — and Congress — as possible. The prime minister is unlikely to arrive before June 30, the deadline for the Iran deal.
The Israelis are actually happy to wait, says Channel One's army specialist Amir Bar Shalom. Defense experts want to scrutinize the GCC deal and the final Iran agreement — in the unfortunate event that it comes to fruition — before compiling their own wish list.
Last week, Vice President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE pledged a shipment of the F-35 joint strike fighter, a plane the Israeli Air Force (IAF) would need to overcome the long-range S-300 surface-to-air missile systems the Russians plan — at some point — to supply to Iran. The media has hailed the F-35s as Israel's solution to the Iranian threat.
Oddly enough, however, just five months ago, the Israeli cabinet rejected a proposal to increase the number of F-35s from 19 planes to 50. The Israelis believe that the plane has sacrificed operational range and payload capacity for stealth. As a result, the IAF is anxious to fly the first two models home to start tinkering with them.
Bar Shalom noted that as part of their compensation package, the Israelis might also need V-22 helicopters, new bowsers and other items to maintain its strategic military advantage in the region.
But even if Israel and the GCC states get everything on their wish lists, will they be better off? Will we?
The sanctions worked. They brought Iran to the table. The goal of negotiations should be to neutralize the Iranian threat and make the world a safer place — an achievable goal if the "surgical strike option" were anywhere near the negotiation table.
Instead, President Obama is telling U.S. allies to militarize and is throwing arms — items that tend to spark — at the powder keg that is already the Middle East.
Friedman is an American-Israeli writer and editor in the fields of political science, history and information technology.