In May 2003 I attended a closed international conference. The topic was Middle East security after the fall of Saddam Hussein. To the participants’ surprise a special guest joined the meeting and gave a speech: Muhssein Rizai, the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and an influential insider of the regime in Tehran.
Mr. Rizai sent a clear message to the US administration: If you, the Americans, want to stabilize the Middle East, talk to the hegemonic power – us, the Iranians. What he effectively offered to the United States in that speech was a partition of the Middle East into two zones of influence – an Iranian one and an American.
He later met secretly with some US officials in their suite, but the US administration rejected his offer. Until now.
With the deal between the P5+1 world powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France – plus Germany) and Iran that was signed in Geneva last month, the Iranian regime stands on the verge of getting exactly what it wants, thanks to nuclear blackmail.
Though this agreement achieves a partial, temporary delay of the Iranian nuclear project, it is very important to understand what it does not include on Iran’s part:
- Stopping development and production of long-range ballistic missiles
- Ending the subversion of Sunni regimes in the region, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia
- Ceasing support and financing of terror organizations such as Hezbollah
- Halting the export of the Islamist revolution to other Muslim countries, such as Lebanon, Iraq, and west Afghanistan
- Stopping the brutal repression of the Iranian people and of its minority nationalities (Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, and others).
Accordingly, the P5+1 seems ready to give to the ayatollah's regime not only a comprehensive insurance policy for its survival, but also a license for its imperial ambitions and a permit to use the blackmail leverages of missiles and terror to undermine governments in the Persian Gulf and Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories.
Moreover, as a consequence of the agreement, the domestic Iranian opposition could be stifled and tortured with the silent acquiescence of the Western democracies.
Thus Israel, which continues to face an estimated 70,000 rockets and missiles from Hezbollah and Hamas targeting its cities, will not be the only victim of the deal.
Israel and other American allies concerned about the threat of Iranian aggression in the region might be able to come together and create a new regional alliance to confront these dangers. But that is not feasible as long as there is no real progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; Arab countries will not join Israel in such an alliance while the West Bank is occupied and Israeli settlements there are expanded.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's harsh criticism of the Geneva deal is correct. The eagerness on the part of the P5+1 to strike a deal with the ayatollah's regime seems to stem not only from an aversion to standing up against evil, but also from a lack of understanding of the Islamist challenge and from a blurred distinction between allies and foes in the region.
The problem, however, is that Mr. Netanyahu's keenness to appease the hard-liners and “settlers” in his country renders progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations impossible, thereby thwarting any attempt to build a regional alliance with Arab countries against the Iranian threat.
Without the Geneva deal in place, the US administration might have been able to give the Israelis and Palestinians a bridging offer in early 2014. But now that this deal is signed, the US may not have the moral authority to exert pressure on any Israeli government regarding an agreement with Palestinians. Thus for all its failures against the Iranian threat, this deal also increases the chances that Secretary of State John Kerry's sincere, tireless efforts to bring about a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will fail.
Dr. Ephraim Sneh twice served as Israel’s deputy minister of defense, was a member of several Israeli cabinets, and is chair of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College in Netanya, Israel.