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In the past several years Israel and Iran have been portrayed as bitter enemies who are at each

others throats. One may be led to believe that the two countries have always been enemies; however, there is a history of friendship between them. During Irans rule under the Shah, both countries had extensive economic, political, and military ties that were used to ensure US and Israeli interests in the region, yet the Iranian Revolution changed Irans relationship with Israel. Due to the current confrontation between the two nations, an examination needs to take place of how the Iranian-Israeli alliance was formed and fell apart to better show how currently relations have been affected. After the creation of the state of Israel, Iran was forced to play a balancing act between supporting Israel on one hand and making sure not to upset the Arab states on the other. The Jewish state was of great strategic interest to Iran as the Shah knew that Israel could improve Irans security by absorbing the attention and resources of the Arab states. However, if Iran was to formally recognize Israel, Arab would also fall on Iran thus the Shah treaded a path between overt hostility and overt alliance. [1] In addition to this, the Shah wanted to back Israel and with it the West, due to the fact that Communist ideology threatened the Shahs rule as the levels of wealth inequality in Iran gave rise to pro-Soviet groups such as the Tudeh (Peoples) Party. However, the shah was quite suspect of Israels loyalties due to the fact that during the outset of Israels inception many Israelis felt an emotional and ideological affinity for the Soviet Union due to the fact that not only did strong socialist sentiment exist in Israel, but many Israelis identified the Soviet Union as the country primarily responsible for defeating Nazism. [2] This, coupled with Israels efforts to befriend both the US and the Soviet Union, made the Shah somewhat suspicious that the Jewish state may have been trying to play both sides. Thus, the Shah adopted a wait-and-see policy where they would maintain a distance from Israel, waiting for her to fully clarify her allegiances. Israels dilemma was quite complex as they had to depend on the West for capital investment, but needed Jews from both the East and the West to immigrate to Israel in order to grow its population and survive. The ethnic makeup of Palestine was against Israelis as by 1948 Palestinians outnumbered Israelis two to one (1.35 million compared to 650,000). While Israel did end up siding with the West, it did not change the fact that they were surrounded by hostile Arab nations. Thus, then-Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion came up with the doctrine of the periphery which held that due to the improbability of making allies out of the Arab states, Israel should focus cultivating alliances and friendships with non-Arab states such as Turkey, Iran, and Ethiopia (the periphery states) and non-Arab minorities such as Kurds and Lebanese Christians. It was hoped that this strategy would drive a wedge between Israels enemies, weaken the Arab bloc, and halt the spread of pan-Arabism in the region. [3] Iran and Israel would soon find themselves facing a common enemy: Egypt. In 1952 a military coup overthrew King Farouk and dissolved Egypts ties from Britain, gaining full independence. The new government drifted into the Soviet sphere. This greatly worried both Iran and Israel as both countries feared Soviet interests in the region, the threat of radical pro-Soviet Arab states,

and both saw the pan-Arab, anti-Western regime in Cairo, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, as the main villain of the Middle East. [4] Iran was especially worried about the Egyptian-Soviet alliance as they were quite concerned about the territorial expansionism of pan-Arabism and Arab claims over Irans southern oil-rich province of Khuzestan because this pushed Arab nations to ally against Iran even though their respective national interests may have dictated a different course. [5] Thus an alliance of convenience was formed to combat the mutual Egyptian threat. This friendship between Israel and Iran went beyond mutual threats and into economics. Due to the Arab refusal to sell oil to Israel, the Jewish state was in desperate need of oil to continue its economic growth. Iran was readily able to supply it as after the 1956 Suez crisis they helped to finance the construction of the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline which connected the gulf of Aqba and the Mediterranean which allowed Iranian exports to bypass the Suez Canal. This ability to bypass the Suez was quite important as 73 percent of Irans imports and 76 percent of its oil exports passed through the canal. The deal eventually deepened Israeli-Iranian ties on the highest administrative levels as The pipeline was later upgraded to a sixteen-inch pipe after direct negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the Shah in 1958 [6] which was the first direct meeting between an Israeli Cabinet member and the Shah. This pipeline was not without consequences, however. While Israel and Iran didnt reveal their economic cooperation, the close relationship between the two nations was well known to Arab states and was subject to intense criticism. Due to Arab sensitivities, the US backed the pipeline only after it was assured that the pipeline mattered more to the Shah than Arab sentiments as they sensed the Shah wanting to keep Israel at a friendly distance. In addition to economic ties, the fact that Iran had a large Jewish community and Israel was a state meant for Jews was an area of cooperation. Israel wanted to bring Iranian Jews to the Jewish state and Iran wanted Israels level of influence in Washington and needed Israeli technological know-how to aid Iranian agriculture, with Israel training some 10,000 Iranian agricultural experts. Finally, the two nations connected due to being the odd-men out due to their non-Arab status in a region dominated by Arabs. Yet, for all this friendship, there will still other motives at play. While Iran was quite important to Israels overall regional political strategy, Israel was not viewed in the same matter in Iran. Iran saw Israel as a vehicle to block Soviet- not Arab- regional advances. Iran saw the Soviets as a greater threat than the Arabs as the Soviets eyed the oil reserves of the region and was using Nassers Egypt as its surrogate to penetrate the Persian Gulf. [7] In addition to this, the Soviets were supporting leftist Iranian opposition movements, thus pushing the Shah into the arms of the United States. However, there was a dark side to the Iranian-Israeli alliance in the form of the Organization of Information and State Security, also known as the dreaded Savak.

In 1957 the Shah ordered the Savak to form intelligence relations with Mossad and manage Irans dealings with the Jewish state, at the expense of keeping the Iranian Foreign Ministry in the dark. Mossad secretly trained the Savak in military areas such as pilots, paratroopers, and artillery men, but also in torture and investigative techniques as well. Those latter techniques were used to repress political dissent against the Shah and keep his political opponents under surveillance. During all this, the diplomatic relationship between the two nations was kept secret. Over the years Israel had become used to the nature of this relationship, however, they never fully grew accustomed to Irans contradictory stance on Israel. In Israeli minds, if Iran were to fully recognize Israel it would help advance Israels goal in to convincing the Arabs that the Jewish state was here to stay. While Ben-Gurions 1961 visit to Iran was kept secret and thus set the precedent for keeping such meetings secret, several years later Israeli diplomats urged Prime Minister Golda Meir to try and convince the Shah to bring Israeli-Iranian dealings out into the open. She attempted to convince the major Western powers to pressure the Shah to publicly recognize Israel; however these efforts were rebuffed by the Shah who refused to meet with the Israeli representative to Iran for more than three years. This may have very well been due to the fact that the year before Ben-Gurions visit, in 1960, Iran learned the hard way the repercussions of publicly recognizing its relationship with Israel. In July 1960, when asked by a foreign journalist if Iran was going to recognize Israel, the Shah referenced Irans de facto recognition of Israel in 1950, saying that Iran has recognized Israel long ago. [8] This provoked a fiery response from Egyptian leader Abd al-Nasser who used the quote to expand Egypts regional influence and counter Irans growing relations with the Persian Gulf states in the form of anti-Iranian propaganda. This move marked a shift in Irans relationship with Egypt. Nassers propaganda campaign signaled that the traditional base for anti-Iranian propaganda, Iraq, was now shifting to Egypt. This campaign, coupled with the fact that Egypt was attempting to build up naval forces that could be sent to the Persian Gulf to play a supporting role to Iraq in a military confrontation between Iraq and Iran, deeply worried the Shah. Yet Israel aided Iran due to the fact that If Iran was weakened by Egypt and Iraq, the Arab side would be bolstered and the Iraqi army would be freed up to participate in a potential Arab attack on Israel. But as long as Iran balanced Iraq and diverted the Iraqi armed forces eastward and away from the Jewish State, Israel was provided with a small but important window of safety. So Israeli intelligence provided Iranwhose military was constantly preparing for potential Iraqi or Egyptian attackswith extensive intelligence on Egyptian military movements and planning. [9] However, as the 1960s came to a close, the strategic context that enabled an Iranian-Israeli alliance was beginning to fade.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Israel and Iran allied due to the fact that they both faced common enemies; however, the fact of the matter was that at the end of the day, if the situation changed where one didnt need the other, the alliance was finished. Due to the overall political landscape where Arabs disliked the Israelis more than the Persians, it was more likely that Iran would bail before Israel did. In the late 60s and early 70s the geo-political landscape drastically changed as Israel won the 1967 war, the strategy of both the United States and the Soviet Union switched from containment to dtente, and Egypt moved from the Soviet to the US camp. These events greatly changed the relationship between Israel and Iran. After the 1967 war, Iran became deeply wary of the Jewish state as while the Shah supported a strong Israel, he did not favor an Israel that was stronger than Iran. This was not due to any worries that Israel would attack Iran as Iran was hundreds of miles away and could always readjust its position to align itself with moderate Arab states. Rather, this worry was due to the fact that the Shah believed that the 67 war had changed Israel from a defensive state to an aggressive one and thus he was concerned about possible Israeli expansion. In addition to this, a too powerful Israel would create a situation where Israel could potentially challenge Irans quest for preeminence or its strategic significance in Washington and would complicate the Shahs balancing act of maintaining strong relations with Israel without angering Irans Arab neighbors. [10] Unfortunately for the Shah, his fears came to fruition as Israel refused to return Arab territories that had been captured in the 67 war. This caused Iran to freeze all joint Iranian-Israeli projects and adopt a tougher public stance against Israel, with the Shah arguing in late 1967 for a solution between Israel and the Arab states to be worked out within the UN. This sudden change in tone caused Washington to seek clarification regarding Irans stance to Israel to ensure that Iran had not fully turned against Tel Aviv. Iran, with the support of the US and Britain, supported UN Resolution 242 which argued for an Israeli withdrawal of all captured territory. Tehran also consulted the US to pressure Israel into taking a more flexible tone with the Arab states as they believed that Israels refusal to withdraw would only exacerbate and prolong the conflict. Yet the Shah was also knew that by pushing for an Israeli withdrawal, it would allow Iran to warm up to the Arab states and its support for Resolution 242, which upheld that a state could not acquire territory by war, was also viewed as a way to protect Iran from possible Arab or Soviet expansionism. Tel Aviv was disquieted by this sudden change in treatment and became suspicious of the Shahs intentions. These suspicions were soon confirmed when Egypts change in camps, from the Soviets to the Americans, drew Iran closer to the Arabs. Due to Egypts defeat at the hands of Israel in the 67 war, Nasser was forced to reduce his regional aspirations and while Egypt began to explore the option of leaving the Soviet camp under Nassers successor, Anwar Sadat, an opening occurred which allowed for a friendly relationship between Iran and Egypt to begin. When Egypt moderated its foreign policy and

recognized Irans public support for the Arab position in Resolution 242, it greatly helped to lower tensions between Tehran and the Arab world by allowing for dialogue to take place between Tehran and Cairo. Via Kuwaiti mediation, Iran and Egypt began backroom dialogue in 1969 where the Shah forced on Nasser the humiliating conditions that Cairo publicly apologize to Iran for its previous provocations and the first step toward a normalization of relations had to be taken by Egypt. While Nasser was not fond of these terms, he begrudgingly accepted them and also agreed to a joint communiqu which announced the resumption of full diplomatic relations between Tehran and Cairo in August 1970. Tehrans influence on Egyptian affairs didnt end there as when Sadat came to power, he publicly made a major shift to the Western camp by expelling over 10,000 Soviet military advisors, but only after he had consulted with the Shah. Furthermore, the Shah began to take visible steps toward the Arab camp in the form of forbidding Iranian officials from attending the 22nd anniversary of the inception of the Jewish state at the Israeli mission in Tehran, refusing to invite the Israeli head of state to the celebrations marking 2,500 years of the Persian Empire in October 1971, [12] and being extremely critical of Israeli policies. Thus, the thaw between Iran and the Arab world revealed the weakness of the Iranian-Israeli alliance. As Irans power and influence increased, they were less and less likely to side with Israel in order to resolve their disputes with the Arab world. For Tel Aviv, Egypts switch from the Soviets to the US left Israels strategic environment less clear-cut more and less clear-cut due to the fact that Israel didnt view the rise of Sadat in a positive manner. For Israel, Sadats rise signaled the formation of a force that would unite under the banner of pan-Arabism to destroy the Jewish state. While Cairo may have made friends with Tehran, it did nothing to end Egypts animosity towards Israel, as the Yom Kippur later revealed. Yet, even though it seemed Tel Aviv and Tehran would break up, they still would have to deal with a common threat: Iraq. If Irans relationship with Egypt had the Shah lowering his guard, it was quickly bought back up when Iraq began to replace Egypt as Tehrans main enemy. Acts done by Iraqs new leader, Saddam Hussein, such as hosting Iranian opposition elements and signing a Treaty of Cooperation with the Soviet Union which ensured a 15 year Soviet military and economic commitment to Iraq caused Tehran to be apprehensive concerning Iraqs hostile intentions. This apprehensiveness only increased when the US refused to sell arms to Iran, thus making the country susceptible to Iraqs growing military. Yet, while in the Shahs mind the Soviets were becoming a threat due to their advances, in reality the situation was such where the Soviet threat to Iran was growing, not because of direct Soviet advances against Iran but because of Americas weakening determination to protect Iran. As the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship shifted from containment to dtente, creating a competitive yet peaceful coexistence between the United States and the Soviet Union, Israel and Irans

differing attitudes vis--vis superpower politics became a lesser factor in their bilateral relations. [13] Israel also saw Iraq as a threat as Israeli strategists feared that if Iraq emerged as a contender for the leadership of the Arab world and was willing to take on Israel in a future Israeli-Arab war, the balance might tip in favor of the Arabs and they knew that An Arab alliance with Iraqs full participation could overrun Jordan and quickly place the Iraqi army on Israels eastern front. [14] Thus, with dtente changing the dynamics of the region as it created a situation where the superpowers were less willing to intervene on behalf of their allies and client states and the rise of an Iraqi threat to both Iranian and Israeli security, cooperation between Tehran and Tel Aviv became all the more important. Yet, just when it seemed that the geo-political landscape would force Israel and Iran to cooperate once again, two events put the alliance on rocky territory: Irans quest for regional supremacy fully revealed and the 1973 Yom Kippur war. It is important to realize that while the alliance with the Shah was used to further US and Israeli interests and Iran was relatively close to Israel, it did not change the fact that overall, Iran wanted to become a regional hegemon. This had always been Tehrans true goal and it had never changed. The Shah as well as the general population believed in Iranian greatness and that conflict in the region would cease only when it was under Iranian supremacy. The Shahs economic reforms and increased military spending were all focused on realizing this goal. During the late 60s and into the 70s, Iran quickly surpassed the economic and military might of its neighbors, thus establishing itself as the major regional power. This was all due to the jump in oil prices that occurred at the time. This increase in revenue not only allowed for Tehran to become the regional power but to also spread its influence throughout the region via giving loans to Arab neighbors. During this time, Irans military grew greatly and was modernized as the Shah went on an arms shopping spree, doubling Irans military expenditures from 1973 to 1974 and by 1976, Irans military expenditures had tripled, reaching an astounding $18.07 billion. [15] However, this was a regional phenomenon as (with the exception of Israel, whose military spending remained constant) all Arab nations went and increased their defense spending. In addition to this, Iran was using its booming economy to gain leverage over the Arab states, with Tehran giving loans totaling approximately $1.4 billion to countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Morocco in 1974 alone. Yet, this increase in military spending didnt aid Iran very much in its quest for regional supremacy as the Shah was now in a situation where Irans foreign policy had to be changed in order to win recognition from states that werent on good terms with Iran as without this

recognition, Iran would be unable to enjoy the benefits of its newly found regional position. Gaining recognition from its neighbors would enable Tehran to gain leadership positions in regional forums such as OPEC. Such a course of action would ensure that the Arab states took Irans opinion into account and make sure that there was no challenge to Irans regional authority. The economic aid also failed to greatly increased Irans influence as those same countries could seek out assistance from oil-rich sheikdoms in the Persian Gulf. This focus on influencing Arab states had a negative side effect: it created a situation where the Persian-Jewish alliance was put at risk due to the fact that as the Shah became more and more interested in making good friends with the Arab, he considered Israeli interests and concerns less and less. While such acts may have somewhat alienated Iran from Israel, the 1973 Yom Kippur war put the entire strategic alliance into question. While Israel did win the 1973 war, the very fact that Israel was nearly defeated prompted Middle Eastern nations to reassess their perceptions of the balance of power. The war damaged the perception of Israels strength, which had significant impact on the political map of the region. [16] The Yom Kippur war itself worried Iran. They did not want an Arab victory as such an event would make Iran the only outsider in the region, leaving them isolated and subject to possible attacks from an Arab coalition. Israel recognized this as they attempted to undermine the improvement of Arab-Persian relations and that Iran benefitted from the existence of animosity between Israel and the Arab states. There were other factors at play as well. If there was an Israeli victory, it could potentially lead to the fall of Sadats government and the return of a pro-Soviet Union Egypt. In regards to the USSR, Tehran was concerned that the Soviets would take advantage of Americas preoccupation with Vietnam to challenge Irans regional supremacy. Such an action would put into question Irans ability to control of flow of oil and subsequently its ability to determine internal and external economic growth. Tehran also did not want US involvement in the region either as the Shah wanted no restraints on his ambition to dominate the [Persian] Gulf, and he saw the U.S. Navy base in Bahrain as a rival to his own suzerainty. [17] Overall, the Shah wanted to maintain Iranian regional hegemony by playing virtually all sides. With these interests in mind, Iran maintained neutrality during the war; however this was false as Iran played both sides during the entire war. In regards to the Arabs, the Shah gave oil to the Arabs during the war, thus weakening Israeli-Iranian relations further. The Shah further aided the Arabs in the form of medical aid, providing Saudi Arabia with Iranian pilots, helping Arab planes to resolve logistical problems, and at one point even sending planes to transport a Saudi battalion to the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in order to rescue wounded Syrian soldiers and bring them to Iran for treatment. Iran also allowed for the Soviets to aid the Arabs and refused to allow Australian Jewish volunteers to get to Israel via Tehran. In regards to Israel, the Shah continued to sell oil and weapons to the Jewish state.

This deceit and treachery caused Israel to feel betrayed by Iran and greatly strained the relationship between the two nations. The relationship was strained further following the war as Iran began trying to locate opportunities to reduce their reliance on the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline as due to the rise of a pro-US government in Egypt, the pipeline had lost its strategic significance as there was no longer any reason to circumvent Egyptian-held territory. Additionally, when Washington started up disengagement talks between Egypt and Israel, Tehran consistently sided with the Arabs, arguing that Israel should return all conquered land in exchange for peace and pressured Tel Aviv by freezing all military cooperation and ceasing the purchase of Israeli weaponry. During the war, Israeli officials urged Iran to end its aid to the Arabs, telling the Shah that he didnt know who Irans real friends were. However, what Israel did not realize was that the foreign policies of both countries were very different. While there was no formal alliance between the two, Israel expected Iran to act as their ally due to their common geo-political interests and intelligence cooperation. Iran, on the other hand, was quite cold in regards to foreign policy, having no time to think of such concepts as friendship. The Yom Kippur war forced Israel to rethink its relationship with Iran as the Shah had not come to Israels aid, rather they used to war as an opportunity to solidify their position in the region. There was a problem, though: due to Iraqs newfound military might (they had the ability to overrun Jordan and be at Israels eastern front in 48 hours), Israel was in need of an alliance with Iran even more than before the war. In an attempt to restart relations with Iran, Israel sent over Ambassador Uri Lubrani to Iran in 1973. Lubrani had a deep respect for Iranian culture and national cohesiveness, which Israel attempted to use to bring Israel back into the Shahs view. This attempt failed as Lubrani was regularly ignored by the Shah. While this situation was dismal and caused the alliance to be in a state of near disrepair, the final break between the two regional outsiders ocurred in 1979 with the Iranian revolution. At the outset of the Iranian revolution, the Israelis were not as surprised as the rest of the world when it occurred due to their intelligence network in Iran. Iranian officials indirectly revealed that discontent with the Shah was high when they turned to Mossad to aid them with the interrogation of more and more opposition members. Somewhat prior to the Revolution, Israel had become aware that the Shah was politically paralyzed and unable to make decisions. Thus, the Israelis began to think about how they could save the situation and secure the Shahs reign. A split developed within the Israeli government. There were those who favored persuading the Iranian military to launch a coup and those who believed that the new regime would soon collapse and be replaced by a leadership that would adapt to Irans geopolitical realities and recognize its need for Israel. [18] Leading the former group was Ariel Sharon who proposed sending in Israeli paratroopers to Tehran with the objective of saving the Shah. This was voted down.

Eventually the Israelis began to talk to high-ranking Iranian military officials, arguing that they a coup to save the regime. This failed, though, as the Iranian generals were too afraid to challenge the Shahs authority, much less tell him how hated he had become. While the generals did take action in 1979, it was only after the Shah had fled to the US, and even then after the Carter administration signaled that they wanted a democratic Iran, most generals saw no choice but to flee the country. When the new Islamist regime was finally in power, it dealt a major strategic blow to Israel. Tel Aviv had been continuously guided by the periphery doctrine even after they had made peace with Egypt and within that strategic framework, Irans location at the perimeter of the Arab world, its economic and military ties to Israel, its oil, and its traditional enmity with Iraq and the Soviet Union made it next to irreplaceable. After twenty-five years of Israeli political investments in Iran, the ties to Tehran had become a crucial element of Israels regional strategy. [19] With the loss of Iran, the Jewish state would find it that much harder to survive in a region that was already extremely hostile to it. Due to the loss of Iran, the Jewish-Persian alliance was shattered and Israel became the outsider in the region. While the issues of nuclear proliferation and Islamic radicalism fuel the problems between the countries today, at the heart of the situation lays the fact that Israel wants Iran back, wants the Shah back. They no longer want to be to outsider in the region, they no longer want a shattered friendship.

Endnotes 1: Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), pg 20 2: Ibid, pg 21 3: Ibid, pg 22 4: Ibid 5: Ibid 6: Ibid, pg 23 7: Ibid, pg 24 8: Ibid, pg 27 9: Ibid, pg 28

10: Ibid, pg 30 11: Ibid, pg 32 12: Ibid 13: Ibid, pg 35 14: Ibid, pgs 34-35 15: Ibid, pg 40 16: Ibid, pg 44 17: Ibid, pg 46 18: Ibid, pg 91 19: Ibid, pg 90