Sometimes it took the form of opposition intelligence services, sometimes turned into full-scale military conflicts. The participation of external players was now more, then less active. But never, perhaps, the situation in this region was not boring or not worthy of attention.
What is happening there is extremely interesting now. For the first time in many years, we are witnessing the emergence there of our own and relatively independent centers of power, which would not mind turning into a regional superpower. There are four such states in total: Israel, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Probably, Egypt could be on this list, but nevertheless we will refrain from identifying it like this - the internal political events of recent years have greatly undermined Cairo’s position even in the Middle East arena, and we are only interested in it as a holder of quite significant military force to their side are some of the above candidates for the conditional Middle Eastern crown.
And we begin, perhaps, with Israel.
This state is unlikely to ever become a recognized leader in the Middle East region. But it possesses the most significant military power in the region, which has more than once proved for more than half a century. But more importantly, it is ready to use its military power to achieve political and military goals, and all the ambitions of other players are wealthy just as much as they are able to prevent the appearance of the Israeli Air Force over their capitals.
To begin with, we state: Israel, in addition to its own interests, has to defend the interests of its main ally, which is the United States of America. Moreover, this is not just a figure of speech - the annual US military aid to Israel is approximately 3,1 billion dollars, and after 2018, according to the new agreement, it will be even higher, namely 3,8 billion dollars a year. In addition, in reality, this amount can even be increased, because arms supplies to Israel go at prices that are significantly different from conditionally market prices.
Do not forget about the technological component of cooperation. Israel not only has access to the latest developments of the US military-industrial complex, but sometimes participates in them itself. One example of such cooperation is, in particular, the newest fighter F-35i, developed with the participation of Israeli companies and scientists specifically for the requirements of the Israeli Air Force.
It is clear that Israel simply cannot ignore such a partner if it wants to continue to be the most combat-ready country in this difficult region. But sometimes it happens that the own interests and the interests of the “elder brother” do not quite coincide, and this not only weakens the position of Israel, but can also undermine its long-term interests.
One of the examples of such a discrepancy was observed recently. The United States, putting on the speedy overthrow of the legitimate authority in Damascus, moved towards the goal literally at any cost, without disdaining the support of outspoken terrorists. Israel, which does not have much sympathy for Assad, even less wanted to see on its border a conglomerate of fragments of Syria, Iraq and, in the very near future, Lebanon ruled by completely reckless fanatics.
Perhaps this explains the calm goodwill with which the Israelis perceived the beginning of the operation of our videoconferencing system in Syria. Not wanting to provoke its overseas partner, Israel avoided publicly expressing its approval of Moscow’s actions. But he did not express any negative assessments, and even turned a blind eye to some unpleasant incidents, such as crossing the Israeli border with a Russian drone (which, by the way, could not be brought down). The contacts of the Russian and Israeli military also had a respectful, working nature.
Israel’s position regarding the recent incident with the poisoning in England of the Russian traitor Skrypal and his daughter is eloquent. Tel Aviv, as is known, did not support the “action of solidarity with Great Britain,” and refused to send Russian diplomats. This, of course, is not directly related to Middle Eastern affairs, but still quite eloquently shows the current level of Russian-Israeli relations and the absence of any fundamental differences in them. Solidarity is solidarity, but national interests are more important, and Israel understands this very well.
It is clear that Tel Aviv would not be himself if he missed the opportunity to weaken Syria’s air defense a little more. And strikes against air defense units near Damascus cannot be called an adornment of the Israeli position. But this has nothing to do with our fight against terrorists, and, as they say, no one promised anything to anyone.
Another threat to Israel is connected, oddly enough, with another American ally (at least it was such until recently), namely Turkey.
For Israel, in principle, the situation is unacceptable when some Islamic state becomes powerful enough to challenge it in the military sphere. And the only state that can do this in the foreseeable future is Turkey. Armed according to NATO standards and having quite good air forces, based on the F-16 universal horsepower fleet, a rather strong fleet and armored units for this region, this country now claims to be the main striking force of the Islamic world.
The situation was aggravated by the fact that in the event of the collapse of Syria, a large enough piece of it would have probably been taken over by the Turks. This would mean not only a proportional increase in Turkey’s human and industrial resources, but also its approach to the borders of Israel.
Probably, all this would not be so terrible for Tel Aviv if Istanbul continued to be an obedient American puppet. But over the past few years, Turkey’s emergence from the sphere of American influence has become increasingly apparent. And besides, the degree of Istanbul’s Islamist rhetoric has increased significantly, which Tel Aviv cannot but disturb. There are all signs of an Islamic leader emerging before our eyes, to which even arrogant Arab monarchies can swear allegiance under a certain scenario.
Obviously, such a state of affairs cannot suit the Jews, and we will probably still see their efforts to prevent such a development of events. In particular, we can expect an increase in pressure on Russia in order to prevent military and technological cooperation between our countries, especially in the transfer of critical technologies to Israel from the security point of view.
Another priority for Israel is to counter Iran’s attempts to take a dominant position in the Gulf region. Obviously, here his interests fully coincide with the American, as well as Saudi.
The most important question for Tel Aviv is whether Iran will be able to get nuclear weapon. And here, despite the whole peace-loving rhetoric of Tehran and its deal with the West, the attention of Mossad (Israeli intelligence) will be vigilant, and the actions will be extremely tough. Let me remind you that Israel has already undertaken earlier attacks on Iraqi and Syria’s nuclear facilities, and Iran itself suffered from the most likely successful sabotage operation of the Israeli and American intelligence services, during which a virus embedded in the control systems of the Iranian uranium enrichment plant disabled almost all gas centrifuges that were there.
Unpleasant for Israel, the development of events would be the collapse of Iraq, as a result of which Iran can get a fair amount of it, populated mainly by Shiites. This will not only strengthen the economic power of Iran (and the regions of southern Iraq are rich in oil), but also bring the borders of this state closer to the borders of Saudi Arabia, making it possible, in the long term, a sudden and potentially successful attack by Iran against this state.
It is clear that such a scenario will become possible only in case of a critical weakening of the American positions in this region. Which, frankly, is not at all obvious. but история knows many cases when recent hegemons collapsed or for a long time lost their military-political positions. Therefore, the strengthening of Iran in any case is a potential threat to the entire region, especially if you consider Tehran’s traditionally “warm” relations with the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf and the promise to destroy Israel.
By the way. No matter how calmly Israel viewed the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, it absolutely does not accept the Iranian presence there. Strengthening the position of Iran in Syria is for Israelis that most unpleasant fly in the ointment, which ended up in a barrel of honey imported by the Russians. Probably, it is the Iranian presence in Syria that will become the main headache for Israeli diplomats and military after the threat of the collapse of this state finally passes away. But while the problems of the pros outweigh the cons, Tel Aviv is ready, reluctantly, to tolerate such unheard-of boldness of the Iranians.
The third threat that could force Israel to go "on horseback" is the Saudis' waking up nuclear ambitions. And this threat, for all its unacceptability, again exposes the problem of the periodic discrepancy between Israel’s own interests and its allied debt, which is also, in general, a part of these interests.
The Saudis, who are still cautiously declaring that nuclear weapons can only appear in response to a similar threat from Iran, are also key US allies in the region. And this to a certain extent is the insurance of Israel against some completely unpredictable actions of Riyadh. But this is only true as long as the United States plays a leading role in the region. That, as we said above, is very likely, but still with reservations.
And this means that the emergence of a Saudi nuclear weapon is unacceptable for Israel in principle. Even despite the possible coincidence of interests and cooperation with the CA in the issue of joint deterrence of Iran.
Moreover, deterrence may be unsuccessful (and the Saudis are still warriors), and Riyadh’s nuclear developments can become an honest trophy of Iran.
In addition, the traditional flirting of the monarchy with all sorts of radicals also raises doubts. It is clear that even the most inadequate government will not allow direct transfer of nuclear weapons or fissile materials into the hands of terrorists. But what if the terrorists take it themselves?
Frankly, it is very difficult to predict the actions of Israel in the event that he learns about the development of nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia. Will one key American ally take a hit on another key American ally? The price of the issue is very high in both cases, but still it’s more believed that it will be decided: there is relevant experience and hope to beg forgiveness from the Americans.
It is clear that the permanent threat of Islamic terrorism and its own trade and economic problems, which can become a serious factor influencing both the internal and foreign policy of the Jewish state, have not disappeared anywhere either. But this is for other studies, which may someday be followed.
In the meantime, we state: the priorities of Israel will continue to be focused around their own security. Three vectors of his interests are directly directed towards other potential contenders for the championship in the region, and his policy will be aimed at preventing their excessive amplification.
Of course, Israel has other reasons for concern, including with the actions or aspirations of the world superpowers, but we'll talk about this in the next part of our little research.
To be continued ...