There appears to be a hard-nosed strategy of sorts trying to emerge from under the rubble of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and it may not be a bad one. FP is reporting that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is on the cusp of concluding a massive $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that could help renew US credibility in the region.
Pentagon officials insist it’s basically a done deal; other individuals close to it say there are some details still on the table. Either way, when Hagel does get it across, the Obama White House will have fresh leverage in a region that’s once again engulfed in turmoil. Exactly how much leverage is unclear; Hagel is also seen as the singular channel to Egyptian General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi — who took over in Cairo despite Washington’s wishes, and whose troops have begun massacring its enemies in the streets.What really animates the arms deal is the degree to which it strengthens not only Israel’s capabilities, but those of two other Arab countries against the region’s biggest danger: Iran. That has thrust Hagel, already acknowledged as the administration’s messenger to Egyptian leaders during that turmoil, to the fore as someone who has enough gravitas to anchor a new coalition between Israel and Arab countries.
It’s good to see that the administration hasn’t lost sight of the importance of containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Of course, whether Chuck Hagel or anyone else within the administration can bring the positive momentum generated by an informal Arab-Israeli coalition to bear on the burgeoning chaos irrupting elsewhere in the region is an open question. But it’s a potentially credible approach if backed by a measure of hard power, and as such is a sight better than the diplomatic careening we’ve been witnessing up until now.[Chuck Hagel and Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, courtesy Getty Images.]