A recent Democratic set of talking points created the headline:”How can there be peace when there is no war?” The headline was focused on the Trump administration’s brokering of recognition agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain and Israel. The speculation in some media is that Saudi Arabia will be the next Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) state to recognize Israel and enter into economic relations with Israel. Unfortunately these moves have received little publicity and almost no strategic analysis. The purpose of this article is to put a little meat on the skeleton of a strategy that is emerging.
The strategy has a lot of moving parts. It is designed to stabilize relations in the middle-east, isolate Iran and allow for reduced defense expenditures caused by overseas deployments. Let’s look at each piece.
Stabilization of relations means creating a coalition against Iran and solving the Palestinian issue. With the Arab states normalizing relations with Israel the Palestinians are much more politically isolated. Their blatant support by the other Arab states will have been reduced and they will be more dependent upon a more isolated Iran with domestic unrest and an economy that is collapsing given a loss of petro dollars. This isolation should convince the Palestinians that they should make a deal with Israel and end their state of belligerency.
The process of normalization with the GCC states will most likely result in all of the GCC states, except possibly Qatar, recognizing Israel and normalizing relations with it. Qatar is isolated presently from the GCC because of its support for terrorists and other issues with the Saudis.
This normalization will create a much tighter coalition against Iran and facilitate the ability to attack Iran should that become necessary to stop the development of nuclear weapons. With overflight and refueling support from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait it will be much easier for Israeli aircraft to reach Iran or standoff range for selective air to surface munitions to strike Iran. This can all be accomplished with at least defensive support from the GCC states so that the Israeli aircraft are operating at least partially under the air and missile defense umbrella of the Saudis et al.
This offensive capability coupled with the ongoing economic sanctions and political unrest could easily create the conditions for a revolution within Iran and at least a reduction in support for Hamas and Hezbollah. This of course also adds pressure on the Palestinians. In short the synergy created by all of these peaceful changes in the middle-east provide both the framework and the impetus for the resolution of many of the sores that are open in that area.
This indirect approach to creating leverage against the Palestinians stands a great chance in succeeding in solving the Palestinian issue.
With the lessening of the bellicose situation, the US will be free to continue / finalize its redeployments from the region. Maintaining these forces at home is cheaper than if they are overseas. Taking them out of the force structure is the cheapest of all. This introduces what may be the Trump plan to reduce defense expenditure in his second term, while not reducing capabilities. This will be the subject of a later article.