Foreign policy is about necessity, not desire. And multiple necessities have been driving the United States and Iran toward a détente of sorts. Indeed, the American-Iranian estrangement, which has gone on a decade longer than America’s estrangement from “Red China” did, is anomalous in international relations, given how many amoral geopolitical interests the two nations share. The idea that the interests of Israel, even with Saudi Arabia alongside it, can indefinitely or even permanently override some degree of reconciliation between the United States and Iran—the ancient world’s first superpower—is problematic. Yes, Israel’s domestic lobbying machine is formidable, and yes, Israel’s prime minister is by some accounts a determined schemer, but they may not ultimately be able to prevent the American executive branch from seizing the kind of diplomatic opportunity that comes along only a few times a century. Whatever the eventual outcome of the long-running negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli interests cannot impede a warming of relations between Iran and the United States in the coming years, under either this president or the next.
The Obama administration’s reported hostility toward Israel is merely a reflection of the emerging geopolitics of the early 21st century, with its vast and changing undercurrents of culture, geography, economics, natural-resource supply chains, and military acquisitions. As globalization shrinks the world map and each portion of it becomes more ferociously contested, talking about the Middle East without taking Asia into account becomes impossible. So let me start there, because the administration’s intended “pivot” to Asia and the opening to Iran are inherently connected.