Iranian involvement in the Ukraine war through the transfer of drones to Russia is an opportunity for U.S. President Joe Biden to change direction and benefit on all fronts.
Replacing the administration’s lax policy on Iran with a more aggressive one will exact a price from Tehran for its decision to aid Russia militarily and side with President Vladimir Putin in his confrontation with NATO.
But a change in policy would benefit Biden in more than one way. It will pave the way for the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, stop their rapprochement with Russia and China and help deal with the global energy crisis.
It will also encourage the Iranians who are desperate for support against the regime’s repressive policies. Instead of quarreling with Saudi Arabia, being humiliated by Iran and continuing to falter on his three most immediate international challenges—the Ukraine war, the global energy crisis and the Iranian nuclear threat—this is the Biden administration’s opportunity to achieve great success. Such a just and worthy policy will affect the future of the region and strengthen America’s position in the emerging world order.
The Oct. 17 drone attack on Kyiv signaled a degree of rapprochement between Moscow and Tehran in the shadow of the war and the nuclear deal debate. Although Iran denies it, the regime has provided Russia with a fleet of suicide drones.
According to U.S. reports, Tehran will also supply Moscow with surface-to-surface missiles to attack cities and military bases in Ukraine. Although this is not the first time that Tehran has sided with the opponents of the West, this time it has blatantly done so through military aid in a time of war.
The White House’s warnings against such involvement have had no impact on Iran. America’s weakening position in the Middle East and efforts to court the ayatollah regime in the nuclear negotiations have strengthened Tehran’s self-confidence and defiance towards the West.
In doing so, Iran has once again proved that the threat posed by it and its arms industry is not limited to Israel and the Middle East alone, but rather a challenge to stability and peace in the entire world. In fact, the Islamic republic has positioned itself as an active player in the conflict with the democratic-liberal camp led by the United States.
And this is how Iran acts before it has nuclear weapons, having seemingly recognized the plight of the West and the weakness of U.S. policy, of which it is taking full advantage.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are also aware of this. Their leaders’ decision to ignore U.S. pleas for oil dashed Biden’s hopes of seeing them collaborate in the face of the global energy crisis.
America’s disappointment is evident in the announcement issued by the White House about its intention to reevaluate ties with Saudi Arabia, although it is uncertain whether such a threat will be effective.
Perhaps it will achieve the exact opposite and only exacerbate Riyadh’s disappointment with the Biden administration and what is perceived as its condescending attitude, and especially with Biden’s march towards Iran on the backs of those who are supposedly his allies in the region. Such U.S. conduct may actually push Saudi Arabia and its partners into the hands of Russia and China.
Now the U.S. has the opportunity to solve these problems with one decision alone: A change in its policy vis-a-vis Iran. It might even help its ties with other European countries.
This is an opportunity to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which threaten world peace, strengthen the position of the U.S. in the Middle East and American leadership in general and prove that the U.S. has the ability to bring order and stability to the global system, the lack of which is currently evident in almost every corner of the world.
Meir Ben Shabbat is head of the Misgav Institute for Zionist Strategy & National Security in Jerusalem. He served as Israel’s national security advisor and head of the National Security Council between 2017 and 2021. Prior to that, for 25 years he held senior positions in the Israel Security Agency (Shabak).
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.