Beyond the issue of who’s the tail and who’s the dog in the increasingly messy U.S.-Israel relationship – a question which has taken on more-than-customary urgency given the current Israeli government’s recent public move towards sky-is-falling rhetoric about Iran – there’s the intriguing matter of what historical analogies apply in this knotty case. ...The best analogy, says this historian, for the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the mounting crisis with Iran, goes back a century, to just before Europe went crazy and destroyed itself.
In the years leading to the First World War, Russia developed a cancerous relationship with Serbia, with the latter becoming a troublesome client which occupied Russian attention out of any proportion to Serbia’s actual size, importance, and influence. While there were genuine ethnic and religious ties between the two countries, they were neither traditional nor natural allies, beyond a mutual loathing for Islam. Russia aided Serbia for decades in its wars – some open, some covert – against the declining Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. By 1913 Serbia had defeated the forces of Islam in its neighborhood, taking over lands which Serbs held to be sacredly theirs (even if inconveniently occupied mostly by non-Serbs who did not want to ruled by Serbs), and it wanted to take the fight to Austria-Hungary, which it viewed as the last obstacle to Serbia’s quasi-religious ”place in the sun.”
... The dangerously loopy head of Serbian intelligence convinced himself and his retinue that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne, was the head of the “war party” in Vienna and had to be killed. So they did. This was the origin of the plot which culminated in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. It was the most consquential act of state terrorism in modern history, yet was based on a complete and total misread of Austrian intentions – the ill-fated archduke in fact was the most peace-oriented leader in the empire – which may be instructive about the value of intelligence analysis.