Vox Dei, Vox Populi

By: Professor. Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Global Security and Religion, University of Tokyo.

Since President Trump has put off attacks on Iran on June 20, two opposing camps are emerging. One is those with skepticism in President Trump’s credibility, particularly in his intention and ability behind the “maximum pressure policy.” There are efforts to search for alternative patrons to hedge against a possible abrupt U.S. about-face from confrontation with Iran to embracing it. There seems to be nascent efforts within the region in solving the problems with Iran by political dialogues.

There is another camp whose interest is to keep the tension high in the Gulf. The United Kingdom spearheaded in this effort and captured an Iranian tanker in the obscure territorial water of the Strait of Gibraltar.

In return for that, Iran captured British tankers near the Strait of Hormuz which caused a resurge in tension in the Gulf.

The failure of the British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt in his bid to become Prime Minister against Boris Johnson may change the U.K. policy since Boris Johnson keeps distance from U.S. belligerent policy on Iran.

Iranian actions are basically “tit for tat” which is more appropriately expressed in the Middle Eastern legal dictum as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” controlled retaliations counterbalancing adversaries’ hostilities with proportionate hostilities.

How long will this period of heightened tension last? Perhaps the date September 17 is of special importance.

On this day, Israeli citizens vote for the second time in 6 months. In the general elections of April 9, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party could not gain a decisive victory despite the extraordinary support given to him from the U.S. President Trump during the election period. Netanyahu failed in forming the coalition government largely because of his break with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the newly elected Knesset dissolved itself on May 30.

It is well known that Israel exerts extraordinary influences on the U.S. policy towards Iran particularly under this President Trump. The maximum pressure policy which is implemented is almost identical with what Netanyahu has long been advocating.

The Israeli people have two opportunities to express their decision on this issue and set the course of history their country takes. One is through the direct votes in the September 17 re-elections. The other is indirectly through the coalition negotiations to choose a Prime Minister and the cabinet, which will be held within several months after the September elections. Iran and the surrounding countries will be greatly affected by the outcome of the Israeli elections.