The Obama administration argues the extreme urgency of achieving the “Two-State Solution” as necessary to gain support from the Arab states in our conflict with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Certainly we want any intelligence and support we can gain from the Arab states, but long experience demonstrates that the factor that really determines the policies and actions of Arab leaders concerns threats to their survival in power. Despite their often impassioned rhetoric, largely for domestic purposes, regional, and global factors impact inter-Arab, Arab-Western and Arab-Israel relations much more than the Palestinian issues.
Today, a number of Arab regimes are increasingly apprehensive about Jihadist domestic challenges from forces like Hamas, and the “Two-State Solution” is viewed as a direct threat by Jordan. Arab hostility toward Israel certainly persists. But because the Arab-Israel conflict in Palestine is not really their most vital concern, the support we want to gain from the Arab leaders depends less than ever on the degree of pressure the U.S. puts on Israel and more on their assessment of what power will prevail in the turbulent Middle East.
Obviously, that critical assessment will be profoundly influenced by Iran’s prospective emergence as a nuclear power. The Arab states know that Israel poses no threat to them, while Egypt, Jordan, the Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states do fear the prospect that a nuclear-armed Iran would pursue regional hegemony.
“The world’s most open secret is that the Arab countries of the Middle East fear a nuclear Iran as much, and perhaps more, than Israel does…the comments this week by United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al-Otaiba are worth noting…asked if he wanted the U.S. to stop the Iranian bomb program by force”, he answered: ‘Absolutely, absolutely. I think we are at risk of an Iranian nuclear program far more than you are at risk’. Mr. Otaiba’s other comments leave no doubt what he and most Arab officials think about the prospect of a nuclear revolutionary Shiite state. They desperately want someone, and that means the U.S. or Israel, to stop it, using force if need be.” 1
The Arab states that are inclined to offer U.S. intelligence and other support recognize tacitly that Israel today constitutes a force for stability in the region and may be their best hope for security against a hegemonic Iran, particularly as they witness the lack of American resolve to face the challenge of Iran.
1 The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2010
*Dr. Arnold M. Soloway, President Emeritus and Founder of the Center for Near East Policy Research, earned a Doctorate degree in Economics at Harvard University in 1952, taught on its faculty until 1960, and was elected Chairman of the Graduate Society Council in 1982. Following his 1952 analysis of Boston’s financial problems, he was asked to and did serve on the Mayor’s Committee on Boston’s Finances from 1953-1957. From 1961-62 he served as Special Advisor on Fiscal Affairs to Governor John A. Volpe. From 1964-1966 he was Special Consultant to the (U.S.) Economic Development Administration. From 1974-1979 he was Director-at-Large, National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1978-79 he served as Chairman, Mayor’s Special Commission on Boston Public Housing. He was principal author of Truth and Peace in the Middle East, Friendly House, New York, 1971 and The Role of Arab Political Culture and History in the Conflict with Israel, Center for Near East Policy Research, April 1985.