Will Red Sea incident mobilize pro-Iran-deal Israel critics in the US?

The incident could harm those who support “rapprochement,” the article noted. This would cast the attack as somehow harming the exploration of talks between Iran and the US.

An article at the Wall Street Journal appeared to indicate that some US officials are concerned about the timing of an alleged attack on an Iranian ship in the Red Sea. The ship is known as an IRGC forward base, according to previous reports by expert analyst H.I Sutton. “It is clear what the timing intends to achieve,” a US official was quoted saying at the WSJ.

The incident could harm those who support “rapprochement,” the article noted. This would cast the attack in the Red Sea as somehow harming the exploration of talks between Iran and the US that could lead to a reduction in US sanctions. This could serve those who are critical of Israel and see the Jewish state as somehow harming US-Iran relations or even causing US-Iran tensions.

The coast of the Red Sea from southern Eilat. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The coast of the Red Sea from southern Eilat.(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

In the past, anti-Israel voices in the US, some of them former officials, have alleged that pro-Israel voices have been behind Iran tensions and have tried to implicate Israel in “driving” US wars in the Middle East. This conspiracy tends to pop up in whisper campaigns that allege that pro-Israel policies of the US are in contrast to American interests, as if they are to ally with Iran in some way.  

During the Iran Deal discussions, some far-left groups in the US attacked pro-Israel members of the House and Senate, even accusing US Sen. Chuck Schumer of dual loyalty and being a “traitor.” At the time a cartoon of Schumer as a dog who is a “traitor” to the US drew condemnation.

Later former CIA member Valerie Plame, who eventually ran for Congress and lost, even tweeted a story arguing that “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars.” She later apologized and claimed she tweeted it without reading it.  

Attacking Israel for getting in the way of US-Iran ties has been a favorite of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif. During the Trump years he used to claim that the “B-Team” wants war rather than diplomacy and he singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others at the White House for driving conflict with Iran. This spoke to a kind of dog whistle in the US that has asserted that Israel’s leader purposely tries to push the US to war with Iran.  

The Red Sea incident appears to have galvanized talking points again that seek to portray Israel as harming US-Iran relations. After news broke, Joe Cirincione, a distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute and former head of Ploughshares, which has supported the Iran Deal, tweeted: “just to be clear: Israel is aggressively attacking the ships of another nation. It is not at war with that nation. If these attacks continue, it soon might be.”

The pro-Iran-Deal chorus is being mobilized in the US. Israel is portrayed as being in the way of the amicable deal and “diplomacy.” Incidents like the one in the Red Sea tend to lend themselves to narratives that portray Israel as being in the way of diplomacy and peace.

But the reality may be the opposite. It is Iran that sent the ship to the Red Sea. It is Iran that has used drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia. It is Iran that has sent orders for its proxies to threaten Israel from Syria, Gaza and Lebanon and even Yemen and Iraq. Iran has played a key role in using militias to carry out attacks on the US and its partners in the region.

The portrayal of Israel as somehow doing things “to Iran,” as opposed to the other way around ignores the reality across the region. However, it may also be easier to blame Israel, as some sectors in the US have historically done, to try to make Israel the scapegoat for tensions in the region.

In the 1950s after Israel’s independence in 1948, some US policymakers who were then intent on closer relations with Arab countries tended to blame US ties with Israel for harming America’s relations with the Arab world.

Now that Israel and the Arab states generally have better relations, the new narrative is to claim that Israel is in the way of US-Iran relations. This generally ignores the fact that it is Iran that has been threatening the region, firing missiles, trafficking weapons and inciting extremism, while claiming to enrich more uranium towards the development of a nuclear weapon.


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