Chad and Israel Resume Diplomatic Relations

Chad, a small, impoverished, landlocked nation just south of Libya and west of Sudan, at the advice of Libya, broke off relations with Israel 47 years ago.  However, that is about to change, as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu will be flying to Chad at which time diplomatic relations will be restored. This is a landmark renewal because Chad is a Muslim majority nation (about 55% Muslim and 45% Christian and animist), and thus this event may be a turning point in the united rejection of Israel by the Muslim world.  This trip will come on the heels of a visit to Israel by Chad’s President Idriss Déby and a month following an invitation for an Israeli diplomatic visit by Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

This small shift in the Muslim galaxy of nations has important consequences for geopolitical realignment, but to understand it, it might be wise to go back to 2015 and the P5+1 Iran deal which the Obama administration underwrote, as well as Bibi’s speech before Congress in that year.  In that speech, Bibi uttered that fascinating and timeless statement, “The enemy of my enemy is… my enemy.”  Here, he was referring to the 1000+ year enmity between the Sunni Muslims and the Shiite Muslims, but his statement was taken in the context of repudiating the proposed deal that had been worked out between the U.S. and Iran under the sage negotiations of the pompous, condescending twins President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Clearly, while Israel was not friends with the Sunni Muslim world (most Muslim states are predominantly Sunni), Bibi announced his enmity towards Shiite Iran, the “enemy of his enemy.”  The Iran deal presented an existential threat to Israel as well as providing Iran with unacceptable economic benefits, which had been denied Iran since 1979.  It represented a dangerous and unhealthy rapprochement between the great powers of the world -- especially the U.S. -- and the country backing Israel’s sworn terrorist enemies, Hamas and Hezb’allah, not to mention the Revolutionary Guard units of Iran itself. 

Despite the claim by the Obama administration that the Iran deal was preventing war with Iran as the sanctions up to that point were failing, Bibi understood that the deal was increasing the likelihood of a war in ten years once Iran could produce the needed nuclear materials.  Or, a war might be incentivized even before 10 years as the influx of cash into Iran from Boeing and other multinationals that were denied access under the sanctions would increase Iran’s ability to produce and/or purchase missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

At the time of Bibi’s speech, Faisal J. Abbas of Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned news channel, wrote an op-ed calling on U.S. President Obama to listen to Netanyahu on Iran.  In the article, he wrote, "It is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does… However, one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran."  It seems that this was a type of virtue signaling to the Sunni Muslim world.  Bibi had spoken at the most prestigious platform in the world -- the U.S. Congress -- and repudiated the deal which was perceived in the Sunni Muslim world as an outrageous boon to their eternal enemy, the Shiites.

What happened between 2015 and the present?  The most important event was the election of President Donald J. Trump.  Trump campaigned hard against the Iran deal, and since he has been in office has restored sanctions against Iran and walked away from the deal.  Trump and the electorate that put him in office understood that Obama's deal was not smart compromise, but was simply Munich-style appeasement. Additionally, in his 2017 state visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump concluded a $400 billion trade deal with the Saudis, and in his eight-point speech again lambasted Iran, with its Shiite ayatollahs and mullahs who have led the Saudi religious opposition for more than a millennium.  This must have been a matter of great satisfaction to the rigid Sunni mindset so unwilling to live in peaceful accord with the Shiites as Protestants and Roman Catholics have learned to do in the West.

A fallout from this is a greater flexibility in dealing with Israel.  Flexibility, not real friendship.  Enmity towards any body politic comprised mainly of Christians and Jews is a given throughout Islam with some let up depending on economic circumstances or geography. For example, the Muslims of Indonesia and Malaysia are not as virulently anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel as the Middle East Islamics, both Sunni and Shiite.  Nevertheless, Israel now sees a small opening for building bridges that did not exist before this new rapport with the Sunni world.

During this latest visit to Israel by Chad’s President Déby, before agreeing to invite Bibi to Chad where Israel would get official recognition, it is reported that his team was “very assertive in their demands [for military hardware]”  and even insinuated that they might link them to their decision on whether to renew diplomatic ties with Israel, the officials tell me. This rumored demand was not decided upon, but the Israeli prime minister’s office did not deny that the demand had been made. 

On the one hand, there is an incentive for Sunni countries to deal with the U.S. because of Trump’s demonstrated greater closeness with the Sunni world via Saudi Arabia than his predecessor.  At the same time, Trump’s support of Israel has not escaped notice by the Muslim world.  Since the Saudis feel comfortable dealing with Trump even though he is so pro-Israel, other Sunni Muslims are likely to feel that they can connect with Israel without losing prestige or honor within the sacred commitments they have towards Allah.  Additionally, for countries like Chad that are primarily agricultural, water shortages are a problem, and Israel has developed incredible water technology with ways to enhance this scarce resource. 

Further, during the past 15 years Chad has become an oil-producing country and has doubled its per capita GDP, but it is still one of the poorest countries on the face of the Earth.  Its president has been in office since 1990. He was repeatedly re-elected to five-year terms, and finally term limits were eliminated which, unless he is assassinated, means that he will be dictator for life if he wants to be.  One can only guess the extent of corruption within the government.  With this sudden influx of wealth to Déby and the other bad government plutocrats ruling Chad, they also want weapons from Israel to defend their newly found black viscous treasure.  One thing is certain, wherever there are wealth-producing resources, especially where access to other sources of wealth are absent, there will be attempts to take that wealth by force.  Thus Israel’s advanced weaponry and technological savvy in many economic sectors are having the effect of dissipating some Islamic enmity. Israel’s survival as a beacon of Western Civilization in the backward Middle East is definitely enhanced by this development.