For all those who doubted the logic behind U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, Tuesday night’s reports about Tehran’s attempt to fire rockets at the Golan Heights yet again highlighted its true nature and ambitions. They also crystallized the fact that Tehran only understands the language of force.
In the wake of Trump’s announcement, one could have expected Iran to project a facade of a peace-seeking country, with the aim of rallying the international community to its side. Instead, the Iranians chose the moment to try hitting Israel. After a pre-emptive Israeli strike thwarted that attempt, they then waited less than 48 hours to try attacking again, firing 20 missiles at Israeli Defense Forces’ positions on the Golan Heights overnight Wednesday.
Up to now, Iran’s belligerent behavior has borne fruit, but someone in Washington or Jerusalem decided to show them the red line before it could establish a military presence in Syria menacing enough to deter Israel.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, added to the blows that Iran and its proxies have sustained in recent days in Syria, have been received with unveiled glee by many in the Arab world, who sense that Washington is returning to filling a leading role in the region by defending its allies and blocking Iran’s expansionist endeavors.
After all, unlike European countries, which fear losing business deals and believe conciliation and infirmity can appease the aggressor, in the Middle East no one has any illusions about Iran and its intentions, particularly those who have already felt the effects of its ever-expanding reach.
For instance, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait have all fallen prey to terrorism perpetrated by Iranian proxies in recent years. Saudi Arabia is fighting with all its might to counter Iran’s efforts to establish a presence in Yemen, which Tehran uses as a springboard to threaten the Saudi home front. Iran’s shadow has even spread as far as Morocco, which last week severed its diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic due to its seditious activities.
These Arab countries were abandoned to their fates under the administration of the previous American president, Barack Obama, who sought to placate Iran and buy its friendship at the expense of his Arab allies.
Trump, on the other hand, assumed an aggressive posture against Iran the moment he entered office and now his threats are being buttressed by action. More importantly, unlike his predecessor, he has made it clear that Iran’s sedition and belligerence—and its threats against Washington’s allies—could very well be taken into account during negotiations over any future deal.
Trump’s policies towards North Korea have also proven successful. As an adversary, Iran is no less formidable, but Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the pummeling Iran is taking in Syria are a step in the right direction.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University
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