How U.S.-led Iranophobic propaganda contributed to Arab normalization deals with Israel

September 14, 2020 - 20:37

TEHRAN – In the wake of normalization deals between some Arab states and Israel, former and current U.S. officials sought to put the deals in the broader context of confronting Iran’s influence in the region, a move seen by some experts as an attempt to propagate Iranophobia across the Arab world.

As Bahrain announced a normalization deal with Israel on September 11, Jason Greenblatt, the former U.S. special representative for international negotiations who played a major role in devising President Trump’s “deal of the century”, sought to convince the West that Iran, not Israel, is the major threat to peace and stability in the region.

“The Abraham Accord was motivated in part by an Arab and Israeli concern with Iran's unquenchable thirst for regional hegemony and nuclear weapons. While the UAE has said that the deal was not directed at Iran in particular, it is clear that the regional threat of Iran has become the foremost point of common interest for” the UAE and Israel, wrote the former American official in an opinion piece published by the CNN website on September 11.

He even went further to cast Iran as an “occupation” force in the region, instead of Israel.

Greenblatt stated, “Today, our focus must be on the ‘Iranian Occupation’: what I find to be the best term for Iran's sprawling influence across the region…. In the United States and western Europe, complaints about so-called ‘occupation’ have been misdirected for years against Israel. In reality, Arab populations have now developed a different concern: They recognize the brutal and devastating ‘Iranian Occupation’ in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.”

Some experts and commentators believe that the U.S. seeks to expand its influence in the region by magnifying the threats allegedly posed by Iran.

The U.S. is making efforts to besiege Iran’s influence in the region, according to Mehdi Motaharnia, a university professor of international relations.  

“What we see in the region is the creation of a meaningful space to limit international cooperation with Iran and besiege its regional influence. During the past four decades, Iran laid the groundwork for a resistance axis against Israel as an unacceptable regime. On the other side, the U.S. established an axis in support of Israel,” Motaharnia told the Tehran Times, noting that the U.S. portrayed Iran as a threat through magnifying its regional influence and nuclear program. Motaharnia added that the U.S. also propagated Iranophobia in the region and beyond.  
According to the professor, Iranophobia and the magnifying of Iran’s influence in the region have created a common ground between Arab states and Israel, which led to the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The U.S. has recently brokered two normalization deals between two Arab states and Israel. On August 13, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he brokered a “historic deal” between the UAE and Israel to normalize their relations, the first such deal between Israel and an Arab country since 1994. The last time an Arab country signed a deal with Israel to normalize relations was on October 26, 1994, when Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. U.S. officials hailed the UAE deal as a “historic diplomatic breakthrough.”

Less than a month later, President Trump announced that he once again brokered a similar deal between Bahrain and Israel. Under the Bahrain deal, which was announced on September 11, Tel Aviv and Manama have committed to begin the exchange of embassies and ambassadors, start direct flights, and launch cooperation initiatives across a broad range of sectors, according to a White House statement issued on September 11. The statement also said, “As the President’s work continues, more Arab and Muslim countries will likely seek to normalize relations with Israel.”

Some news reports in Israeli media claim that Oman is preparing to join the UAE and Bahrain in signing a normalization deal with Israel, a move that could cast a shadow over Oman’s good relations with Iran. The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom quoted a diplomat as saying that Oman didn’t establish ties with Israel because of concerns that this move would harm its relations with Iran.

“The reason it hasn’t yet agreed to full and open relations is the reasonable possibility that this could harm its relations with Iran significantly,” the diplomat said.

Oman has welcomed Bahrain’s deal with Israel, expressing hope that the deal contributes to Israeli-Palestinian peace. “[Oman] hopes this new strategic path taken by some Arab countries will contribute to bringing about a peace based on an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and on establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital,” the Oman government said in a statement.
Oman has long sought to use relations with Israel as leverage to help end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands through engagement with Israel. It could soon follow the UAE’s lead in normalizing diplomatic ties with Israel to achieve its goals. However, an Omani normalization deal with Israel could yield no results in terms of bringing peace to the Palestinian people because Israeli and U.S. officials don’t seem to be viewing the normalization deals as a step toward establishing peace in Palestine. Instead, they see them as a step toward building a coalition against Iran.

“The UAE and Israel both recognize Iran as this great threat, so they have now found a way to build out a relationship which can build out a coalition to ultimately make sure that this threat [Iran] never reaches American shores or harms anyone in the Middle East,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.

“An anti-Iran bloc is being established in the region under the leadership of the U.S.,” said Motaharnia, pointing out that the U.S. still seeks to form what came to be known as the Arab Nato against Iran, an alliance that the Trump administration sought to establish over the past few years with no success.

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