Anti-Iran Alliance Falters as Netanyahu, Trump and MBS Focus on Their Own Predicaments

The three leaders who have led the anti-Iran line in recent years were each absorbed in his own domestic crisis this week. U.S. President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate a son of his political rival Joe Biden. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers reported Wednesday to the first meeting of a pre-indictment hearing on three separate corruption cases. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, meanwhile, has been embarrassed by the mysterious shooting death of the personal bodyguard to King Salman, the crown prince’s father. Saudi Arabia is also facing renewed global criticism on the anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was critical of the regime.

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Iran’s leaders have had a relaxed week, by comparison, despite the pressure of the U.S. sanctions and the country’s economic distress. Not only did the sophisticated and destructive attack on the Saudi oil facilities last month pass without a military response from Riyadh or Washington, but Saudi Arabia even made it clear that it supported dialogue with Tehran. Just days after the attack, Iranian President Hassan Rohani received an enthusiastic welcome at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. And this week, the Politico website reported that on the sidelines of the UN, Trump and Rohani agreed, in a bout of shuttle diplomacy brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, on a four-point document as a basis for renewing negotiations. The U.S. and Iranian presidents almost met face-to-face, and according to Politico it was Rohani, not Trump, who backed out at the last moment.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 42

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 42Haaretz

In the meantime, there were reports of a defeat suffered by the Saudis and their allies at the hands of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the civil war in Yemen, shortly after the United Arab Emirates decided to reduce its involvement there. And on Monday, a key border crossing between Iraq and Syria was reopened. It will boost Iranian control of the “land bridge” from Iran to Lebanon, another result of the Assad regime’s victory (with Iranian help) in the civil war in Syria.

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Tehran found itself in an inferior position, after Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. The economic crisis seems to be unbearable and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented a 12-point plan to create maximum pressure on Iran, and many people viewed this as step intended to bring about regime change in the end.