Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Iran Deal Could Lead to an Isolated, Disempowered U.S

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Iran Deal Could Lead to an Isolated, Disempowered U.S

Article excerpt

The framework agreement reached in early April between the U.N. "5 plus 1" group and Iran has won general approval internationally, except in Israel and among Binyamin Netanyahu's Republican Party claque in Washington, where such was never expected. What this agreement also does is point the way toward an isolated and disempowered United States, depending on the choices it makes.

In my view, the importance of the Iran nuclear issue has always been vastly exaggerated. Even if Tehran possessed nuclear weapons, these would be of no strategic value other than that which Israel-possessor of land, sea and air nuclear deterrence-has attributed to them, in the hope that the United States would do to Iran what it did in 2003 to Iraq, invade and destroy it. That would leave Israel the only significant military power in the Middle East.

Washington did not take Israel's bait, even though the Israeli government and its American friends have tried hard enough to convince the United States to go to war against Iran. Indeed, the chorus of congressional advocates of bombing other nations into the Stone Age is still singing, with Iraq still in ruins and with more ruins being created by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the so-called Islamic State.

I have sometimes thought that the simple solution to the Iran nuclear problem would have been for Washington to insist on Israel-Iran nuclear parity. Iran would be free to build up to a level of nuclear weapons to which Israel would build down. Hence mutually assured destruction in the Middle East-just like the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war. But a fanciful idea, I concede.

Yet even then, neither country would be in a position to intimidate its neighbors in the Middle East. Being the sixth (or is it fifth?) most powerful nuclear state in the world has got Israel nowhere, except for providing Israelis who are really afraid of Iran with a certain peace of mind, even if the Iranian nuclear threat for the past quarter-century has been a chimera.

Israel, despite its rockets, nuclear bombers and nuclear missile-launching submarines, has been harassed by persistent irregular acts of war, assassinations and civil uprisings by Palestinian guerrillas, and in its foreign conquests in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Syria by formidable Arab resistance movements like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel's nuclear weaponry has sat there gathering dust. The same thing would be true of Iran's bomb, if it had one, although there would no longer be the same peace of mind in certain quarters. …

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