With all eyes now on the historic peace agreements between Israel and the Arab Gulf States Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, one should remember that this is not the beginning of broader Middle East peace.
Bahrain’s Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa made this perfectly clear when he released a statement after news broke that the island Gulf State situated between Qatar and Kuwait and very close to Iran would join the UAE and normalize ties with Israel.
“Normalizing ties with Israel protects Bahrain’s interests and strengthens its strategic partnership with the United States, amid an ongoing threat from Iran,” said al-Khalifa, who added that the decision to normalize relations with Israel should not be seen as “an abandonment of the Palestinian cause … it is to strengthen Bahrain’s security and economic stability.”
Bahrain, a Shiite majority country that is ruled by a Sunni elite, and Israel had conducted secret relations for more than 20 years, and worked together against common threats, as Professor Eli Podeh of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem explained in an article for the Hebrew-language news site Walla this week.
Podeh recalled how King Hamad told his interior minister already many years ago that he should stop using the term “Zionist entity” or “enemy” when talking about Israel.
End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict?
As my colleague, Edy Cohen pointed out on this news site, the Arab-Israeli conflict has finally ended after the two Gulf States decided to make peace with Israel, and it is expected that Oman and perhaps Saudi Arabia might follow suit soon.
That leaves us with two other conflicts in the Middle East where Israel is involved: the hundred-year-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the conflict between the Iranian axis and the Jewish state.
The latter is much more dangerous for Israel than the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs because Iran’s ability to cause mayhem on a scale never before seen far outstrips that of the the Palestinian terror organizations and the Palestinian Authority.
Iran controls large parts of Syria and uses its Shiite proxies in the country, among them the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, to build up a large fighting force under the name Golan Liberation Brigade.
As we saw last month, a huge internal crisis in Lebanon hasn’t prevented Hezbollah from continuing its belligerent activities against Israel, and has no effect on the organization’s willingness to attack the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at a time of its choosing.
If one tours Israel’s northern border with Lebanon these days one can still see the continuing high state of preparedness of the IDF, and also that of the Israel Air Force (IAF), which is constantly making reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.
Syria: Hotbed of Israeli-Arab conflict, Fueled by Iran
Often at night the IAF, furthermore, attacks Iran-related targets in Syria. For instance, last week it hit the al-Safirah missile production facility near the Syrian city of Aleppo. The Israeli company ImageSat International (ISI) released on Sunday satellite images of the missile assembly facility and said in a statement that “crucial elements” at the site were hit by the Israeli missiles.
ISI also revealed that an earlier Israeli airstrike on a missile facility near Khojir in Syria in June had temporarily halted Iranian missile production inside Syria.
On Monday, the IAF reportedly again struck Iran-related targets in Syria, killing 10 members of Shiite militias near the town of al-Bukamal on the border with Iraq, The Middle East Monitor reported, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The SOHR said the new strike near al-Bukamal in the eastern Syrian Province of Deir a-Zur was the third one in a month. The area has been under Iranian control for a long time and is part of Iran’s land bridge from Tehran to the Golan Heights.
What of Iraq?
Then there is Iraq, which tries to shrug off both the Iranians and the Americans, who in turn this week announced that they’ll finally implement the long-anticipated troop reduction in the war-torn country. About 2,200 US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq.
Iranian-backed militias belonging to the Hash al-Sha’abi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite forces are constantly provoking the US military by launching rocket attacks on the US Embassy in Bagdad’s so-called “Green Zone,” and on Sunday detonated roadside bombs at the moment American military convoys passed by on roads in south and central Iraq.
Waiting to retaliate
All this is taking place while the Iranians made clear they still have to retaliate for the assassination of their legendary commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC, Qassem Soleimani, who was liquidated by an American drone on January 3 this year, moments after he landed at Baghdad International Airport.
According to a Politico report an Iranian plot to assassinate Lana Marks, the US ambassador in South Africa, had been discovered. Marks maintains very good relations with US President Donald J.Trump, and this might explain why Trump’s reaction to the discovery of the plot to kill Marks was heavy-handed.
The President warned the Iranians on Twitter that “any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States, will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!”
So has the Middle East come one step closer to real peace with the deals signed this week between Israel and the Arab Gulf States?
According to Iranian state-controlled media and Islamic Jihad, “peace with Israel is no more than an illusion.”