For the first time in a long while, Israel cannot count on clear backing from the U.S., because of the very hesitant and sometimes criminally unintelligible U.S. policy on Syria
Under the regime of Reza Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, nobody in the region seriously considered going to war against the country. With the bonanza created by the first oil windfall, the shah’s government had an unexpected and most welcome national revenue that allowed the regime to purchase very sophisticated armaments. The U.S. was supportive of the shah’s regime, so there was no political problem or obstacle in purchasing very sophisticated weapons.
In the 1970s, Iran was the playmaker in the region, especially under the Pahlavi’s undisputed authority. Pahlavi overtly supported Mustafa Barzani’s Kurdish insurgency in northern Iraq, but as he said openly in a BBC interview that he was “giving just enough support to the Kurds not to be beaten, but not to be victorious either.” He obliged Iraq to accept a very unfair division of the Persian Gulf coast, which prevented Iraq from having enough berth facilities in its port for oil exportation. This incidentally created the conditions for the Iran-Iraq War after 1980.
Under the shah’s regime, Israel and Iran were the two staunchest allies of the U.S. in the region. Their relations were excellent. In comparison, the Turkish Armed Forces looked sorry as far as the Air Force and armored forces were concerned. Despite being in the same alliance system with Iran, Turkey never had very good or deep relations with the country under the shah. After he was gone and with the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic has always seen secular Turkey as a perfect nemesis.
Regime change in Iran occurred during the Cold War, at a period when countries had to choose between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime was probably the first in history to distance itself equally from the U.S. and the Soviet Union. By assuming a direction diametrically opposed to that of the deposed shah, Iran became an archrival for Israel almost instantly. It is worth remembering that in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, Yasser Arafat paid one of the first official visits to the new Islamic regime, when he declared that Iran was then a second motherland for him and for all Palestinians. Khomeini was not a very delicate or diplomatic leader, and his views regarding the total destruction of Israel created immense anxiety in Israel. It has since become a real fixation for all Israeli governments to see that Iran is contained by all means necessary.