For U.S. and For Israel, Other Countries Matter

One of the frustrating things about the domestic politics of the Iranian nuclear deal is that critics act as though the United States, Iran and Israel are the three–and the only three–parties to the agreement. In fact, of course, Israel is not a party to the agreement, and there are five others: four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Russia, China, England and France) plus Germany. I guess one good thing about Russia’s separate missile deal with Iran is that it does remind Americans other countries matter.

In any event, at the Prospect Gershom Gorenberg reminds us that the U.S. isn’t the only country with other relationships on the line here:

Israel’s fourth German-made submarine is undergoing final preparations to go operational. The first two were paid for entirely by the German government; the next two were built with German subsidies. A fifth is under construction, and a sixth on order, also partially paid for by the German government. According to foreign reports—the phrase always used in this context in Israel—the subs are capable of firing nuclear-armed missiles and provide Israel with second-strike capability.

Even so, relations between the two countries have occasionally been rocky. At least once in the past, Germany threatened not to deliver a submarine due to a dispute over Israeli policy in the occupied territories.

Germany also happens to be a partner to the agreement with Iran. A relentless public attack on the accord doesn’t seem like a particularly good way to maintain relations with the country that (according to foreign reports) provides an essential part of Israel’s nuclear deterrent.

I guess some Americans have forgotten or never quite understood Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, which serves as a nuclear deterrent, independently of anything Iran is or is not doing. In any event, it’s an important part of the overall balance of forces in the Middle East, and thus Germany is part of it, too.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.