Christian Zionism, American Exceptionalism, and the Protestant Roots of U.S. Middle East Policy

In his speech to the Knesset in January, Vice-President Mike Pence declared that, “in the story of the Jews,” Americans have “always seen the story of America.” This observation, says Samuel Goldman, is hardly a new one, and indeed is necessary to understanding U.S.-Israel relations. Taking Pence’s comments one step further, Gershon Greenberg explains that the idea of America as the Promised Land can be traced all the way back to Christopher Columbus, and American history cannot be understood without reference to the land of Israel as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible. Looking at more recent history, Michael Doran explains how certain strands of American Protestant thought shaped the U.S.-Israel alliance, and how opposing strands informed, and continue to inform, this alliance’s discontents. The three explore these ideas further in an in-depth discussion. (Video, 72 minutes.)

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More about: American exceptionalism, American Religion, Christian Zionism, History & Ideas, Mike Pence, US-Israel relations

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

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More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy