Selling Israel Bombs Hurts U.S. Foreign Policy

Israel and Iran do not have the most amorous relationship in the world.

While inflammatory statements made by both sides in the past would have some believe that the two countries are nearing war, they haven’t quite approached that threshold yet. However, the news of a clandestine sale of bunker buster bombs by the United States to Israel in 2009 may instigate future conflict and certainly muddies the diplomatic waters even further.

Israel has been in search of bunker busting technology for years and asked the U.S. to oblige them in 2005. The Bush administration initially denied the request. In 2009, however, President Barack Obama approved a little over half of the original order (55 bombs) in a bid to win Israeli support as part of a balancing act for his denunciation of Israeli settlements.

The negative consequences of this politically-charged decision are astounding.

Selling Israel weapons as an appeasement for criticism of its policy decisions sends a clear message that the sword is mightier than the pen and that any ailment in the American-Israeli relationship can be solved with a quick arms transaction. Israel and the U.S. already have an uncomfortably strong military relationship that has grown steadily over the last 20 years. This behavior reinforces the feeling by many Palestinians, Iranians, and RPG-wielding sympathizers across the Arab world that the U.S./Israeli relationship is completely unflappable and that any statement made by the U.S. in favor of the Palestinian cause is empty drivel.

Israel should be deferential to U.S. policy decisions, not the other way around. What kind of message does it send to Israel if the U.S. gives them weapons, winks, and says, “you didn’t get this from us?” If this policy of appeasement continues, Israel may begin to feel that it has grown out of its American training wheels and can begin to implement policies that harm U.S. interests in the region on its own. Bombing Iran with American weaponry would clearly count as one of these harmful decisions.

There has been a long stalemate in U.S./Iranian relations and putting weaponry before diplomacy does nothing to alleviate the tension. Instead, these backwards priorities only exacerbate it. The Obama administration has a hypocritical policy towards Iran. It tells Iran that the U.S. is willing to talk, but not until they concede to their demands in full, all the while keeping military options on the table. Long-standing, peaceful solutions to issues do not come about when one side has a gun to its head during deliberation.

Nor do peaceful solutions come about when actors do not understand the other side’s intent. Iran wants to be both self-reliant and create a deterrent to any and all external threats through its nuclear program, not haphazardly lob warheads around the Middle East. Iranian leadership is a bit paranoid of outside influence, and understandably so (think 1953). By this logic, Iran has no reason to cease enrichment, but every incentive to continue it. Therefore, a policy of arming Iran’s enemy Israel is completely antithetical to the America's stated goals of curbing Iranian nuclear enrichment, an already ridiculous goal in itself.

This move was motivated by politics far more than by strategy. Crucial foreign policy decisions should never be motivated by pressure from a large constituency of voters who can help or hinder your bid for re-election. Policymakers forget that Iran has the capability to turn the Middle East into hell on earth for American interests and thoughtless, politically-based decisions like this one are bringing us dangerously close to igniting a conflagration that the U.S. doesn’t have the means to put out.

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

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Joseph Sarkisian

Joseph graduated with a Master of Science in international relations from the University of Massachusetts Boston and was an intern at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC. He completed his BA at Arizona State University in political science as well as studied Arabic language, terrorism/counterterrorism, and religion. Joseph also lived in Egypt where he studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo in 2007. Joseph was the Secretary of the Executive Committee for the University of Massachusetts Graduate Student Government, a teaching assistant in his department, and teaches a class on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. His main areas of interest are the Af/Pak region, Iran, Syria, and other current foreign policy issues.

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