Proxy war: Israel and Saudi Arabia vs. Iran

A few months ago, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that sanctions against Iran did not offer the immediate solution required to stop the revolutionary regime’s push for a nuclear weapon. This sentiment was echoed a few weeks back by the United Arab Emirates’ ambassdor to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who calculated that bombing Iran was preferable to an Iranian bomb. Even as the ambassador later backtracked, the Middle East’s worst-kept secret was now in the public record: the Arabs are even more concerned than the Israelis about an Iranian bomb. After all, the Jewish state allegedly has its own nuclear deterrent, while Arab nations finally depend on Washington to protect them—no matter how many arms we sell them. The Saudis didn’t fuss over our decision to withhold long-range offensive capabilities from those advanced F-15s because they understand the deal as a token of our friendship; it does not mean they are equipped to defend themselves against their No. 1 concern, Iran. To preserve the American-backed regional order, Arab nations expect us to stop the Iranians, a security arrangement that has been clear since the Carter administration. What’s new is that if we don’t step up, the Arabs’ unlikeliest ally, Israel, may have to do it.