Biden’s Squandered Opportunity

Winston Churchill is said to have remarked that one should never miss the opportunity lurking behind a disaster. Perhaps, hopefully, we are missing something… but Saturday night’s Iranian attack on Israel could have been a golden opportunity for the US alliance to hit back at Iran strongly and at a minimum dial back Iran’s nuclear program for several years, or ideally, eventually provoke a regime change.

Different from say the Gazans, who overwhelmingly supported Hamas, at least until their cities became scorched earth, the Iranian people by and large do not support Teheran’s regime. Over the last decade, many grassroot Iranian groups have tried to challenge their bloodthirsty government and have pleaded for the United States to support them. A strong combined attack on Iran’s infrastructure and nuclear weapons program could have provided the ideal catalyst for a popular movement that wants to overthrow the Mullas’ regime. But instead of grabbing the opportunity that Iran served on a silver plate, Biden and his administration didn’t waste time to ask Israel not to respond. “Take a Win” is what Biden reportedly told Netanyahu.

True, the coalition that worked so effectively alongside the IDF to thwart Iran’s aggression is a win. But wars are not won only by defending well. At the right time, the opportunity must be grabbed to inflict serious damage on Iran and decapitate the octopus that is sowing terror, and war in the entire middle east. Biden is a key friend of Ukraine, doesn’t he know that Iran is supplying the drones that Russia is using against Ukraine? Doesn’t he know that Iran is a key player in the axis of evil that includes Russia, China, North Korea?

Does he really want to wait until Iran tests a nuclear weapon, thereby making it a lot more difficult to deal with? Didn’t he learn the lessons of history, that tyrants won’t get appeased?

What a colossal failure of judgment.

When More is Less

French President Emmanuel Macron has criticised Austria and Denmark for their declaration of wanting to cooperate with Israel in the production of vaccines. This comes on the heels of Austria’s eastern neighbours’ decision to approve the Chinese and Russian vaccines. According to M. Macron, European states should not attempt to forge alliances outside the EU perimeter but rather concentrate their efforts to centralise solutions within the EU frameworks.

M. Macron is wrong on multiple counts. Firstly, centralisation is very often less effective than states competing to get best results. Older readers will recall the famous/infamous 5 year economic plans of the Warsaw Pact countries. It was a recipe for economic disaster, which took decades to unfold but at the end, in 1990, unfold it did. Federal countries like the United States have honed the centralist/state model for nearly 250 years, and they are still bickering about it, witness the recent decisions of some states, led by Texas, who will drop Covid measures next week.

Furthermore, the EU bureaucracy has proven inept at managing the procurement process. Britain and Israel, free from centralised shackles have understood very early that vaccination was a health and economic must that had to be approached in a non-conventional fashion. Britain was lucky enough to have left Europe at just the right time to be able to make preparations and orders independently, while Israelis, who can’t usually be criticised for over-paying, decided to do just that in their quest for national vaccination.

Picture this. By some counts, one day of lockdown in the UK costs £500m-1bln to its economy. The average double dose of vaccine costs, say, £25. This means that the cost of all the vaccines to cover an entire country can be financed by avoiding a few, extra days of lockdowns. Which means that the cost paid per dose is completely irrelevant, yet the EU allegedly spent weeks if not months bickering on price. These delays will translate into a 3-6 month delay in vaccinating their populations, which will costs EU countries hundreds of billions of Euros. A CEO making such a mistake would be fired by his board. A prime minister would face his angry voters. What are the consequences of the lack of foresight of the EU executives?

The Middle East Change of Tune

As we watch yet another El Al airliner land in an Arab capital to cement the fourth peace agreement between Israel and Arab states, one cannot fail but to grasp several important differences between these successful bouts of diplomacy as compared to the failed ones of the last three decades.

Firstly, this is the triumph of the concept of peace for peace rather than the land for peace dogma of the previous failed peacemakers, such a Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton, and especially Barak Hussain Obama.

Second, it proves the old concept that absentees will always lose. By putting themselves in an untenable and non-pragmatic position, the Palestinians have lost their place at the table, and the simple truth is that the world and the middle east are moving on.

Further, it is a pleasure to hear the leader of the Israeli delegation, Mr. Ben-Shabbat speak to Arabs in the language they understand. His first words both in the UAE and in Bahrain where words of peace and faith spoken in perfect classic Arabic. It has taken nearly seventy years for Israel to recognise that in order to negotiate with their Arab neighbours they should put at centre stage Jews from Arab countries who know how to speak to their Arab cousins, and actually share many of their values, rather than the standard mittel-European secular Israeli politicians who represent everything that the Arabs despise.

Finally, it is a testament to the courage and foresight of leaders such as Benyamin Netanyahu and Donald J Trump, who had the courage to change tracks, jettison the old adages and embark on a ‘peace from strength’ mode which recognises that the world has changed, that Israel is the regional power, not only militarily, but also politically and economically, and that having diplomatic relations with it, under the protective cover of the United States, is a win-win for all.