In the Arab-Israeli conflict, the addition of a religious layer to the conflict
is new. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah are all religiously-based. When one
speaks and acts for God, there is no compromise.
Iran is a nation of
merchants, and it needs the world and its financial system.
leverage to those who want to do something about its nuclear plans. If there is
leadership, resolve, and persistence, with more sanctions, and more partners in
the game, there is a chance that Iran will have to rethink its policy. Europe
can do more. The volume of trade between certain European countries and Iran
remains quite heavy.
In the end, this battle will determine the standing
of the United States and its power and role in the world in the 21st century. I
believe that America has enough power to reinvent itself economically and
restore the power that it had, but the perception that Iran is spreading is just
Israel is part of the camp that America has been leading
for the last 70 years in terms of values, way of life, and democracy.
is important to us that this camp not lose its power in the world, and that is
why a strong America is a very clear Israeli interest, regardless of whether the
Democrats or Republicans are in power.
Compare the United States with its
arsenal and al-Qaeda; of course the United States is much stronger. The Israeli
army is much stronger than Hezbollah or Hamas, but the wars with Hezbollah in
2006 and Hamas in 2009 did not end in unconditional surrender of the other side.
Success does bring deterrence, but not surrender.
Years ago it was
important to know what was happening with your neighbor because he could attack
you, but Manhattan was attacked from Afghanistan. The whole world becomes a
potential enemy or ally. The modern technological era has reduced the importance
of borders for barring information, people, or missiles. Nations can no longer
control the flow of information.
People are much more powerful, while
states are less so. This also means that the bad guys become very potent as
This has meant a change in the nature of war. Wars are now fought
where everybody sees them in real time on television.
This puts limits on
what you can do in an open world today. The stronger side becomes weaker because
everyone can see what he does, while the weaker side becomes stronger because
everyone can see what is done to him. It does not mean that the strong side is
bad and the weak side is good, but it changes the nature of war.
players also now include nonstate actors. Most threatening to some Arab regimes
is the Al-Jazeera television channel. Other important actors that are not states
include the Taliban, al- Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and
Another new factor is a return to religion in the Muslim world, as
in other parts of the world. If you ask people how they identify themselves, in
the past you would hear many people speak of their Arab identity as their first
Today more people will say that they are first of all Muslim.
The Taliban, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah are all
When one speaks and acts for God, there is no
compromise. In the Arab- Israeli conflict, the addition of this religious layer
to the conflict is new.
Egypt’s Nasser never said that he fights for
Allah against the Jews, nor did the Syrians or Jordanians. Now one hears from
Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas that there cannot be a non-Muslim state
The most important conflict that is developing in the world today
is the Iran-America conflict over the nuclearization of Iran. If Iran does go
nuclear, this will have implications for the world order as we know it. First,
it may spell the end of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Some
countries, such as Egypt, have said that if Iran goes nuclear, they would
Others may do it without saying it.
In a world in which more
countries are going nuclear, rather than giving up on nuclear weapons or playing
within the rules, the ability of the superpowers to intervene will be harder and
The alliance between the West and the Arab Gulf
area states has been based on those states giving access to oil – a key element
in the world economy. At the same time, the West/America is leading the defense
of those regimes against radical movements. Those countries have been concerned
with Iranian nuclearization, which would mean Iranian hegemony, coupled with the
declared Iranian policy of exporting its revolution. If America and the West
cannot protect them, they might go along with Iran. Think of a world where Iran
and its allies have such an influence over the price of oil.
Out of the
1.4 billion Muslims, the vast majority want, like every human being, a good life
and stability, although not necessarily democracy. Yet in all these societies
there are minority groups that want to destabilize this way of life and create
something new and more religiously observant, as they understand it. They are
fighting a battle against Western ideas, such as equality of women, and against
basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech. All of them are looking at the
Iran-America conflict to see who will win. A victory for Iran is a victory for
all these groups. Think of how arrogant Hezbollah may become if Iran wins over
America. Think of how arrogant Hamas will be vis-à-vis the PLO.
added the religious element to the conflict in a very detrimental way, playing
its hand through the proxies it has in this area. Hezbollah is a unique
phenomenon, a Lebanese party that is also Syrian and Iranian. Hezbollah leader
Nasrallah calls himself the personal emissary of Iran’s Supreme Leader. Here you
see more evidence of a change from a national to a religious identification.
Nasrallah is an Arab and Lebanese by nationality, and a close friend and
military ally of a non-Arab, non-Lebanese, Persian Iranian called Ahmadinejad,
fighting against other Arabs and Lebanese. This is because Nasrallah and his
followers are first and foremost Shiites, which is more important to them than
all the other components.
Iran and Syria support Hezbollah with weapons
systems, intelligence, training, and an ideology of delegitimizing and
Hezbollah has 50,000 rockets and missiles aimed at
Israel from the north, more than any other country in the world. Hamas and
Islamic Jihad in Gaza, which are Sunni, have more than 5,000 rockets aimed at
Israel, some of them from Iran and Syria.
What is the exact point at
which we say that Iran is nuclear? Every day of enrichment, Iran gets closer to
Every day in which they build more missiles with which to
launch warheads, they get closer. Every day they proceed with the weaponization
process, they get closer. It has not happened as quickly and as successfully as
they wanted it to happen, but the world needs to act so that the world order is
not totally undermined by an Iranian nuclear capability as well as its possible
hegemony within the Muslim world.
This ongoing battle between America and
its allies and Iran is of major importance to all of us. We should not ask
others to fight for us. However, if there is real world interest in stopping
Iranian hegemony and its nuclear capability, then they may do something about it
As the Iranians continue with their nuclear plans, they defy the
West, the UN, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is an ancient
nation with a proud history and culture. It is a nation of merchants, and it
needs the world and its financial system. This gives leverage to those who want
to do something about its nuclear plans. Last year we began seeing some steps
that were quite important: UN sanctions, EU sanctions, and US
If there is leadership, resolve, and persistence, with more
sanctions, and more partners in the game, there is a chance that Iran will have
to rethink its policy.
The United States has been quite successful in
getting the Russians on board for the UN resolution. Somewhat reluctantly, even
the Chinese got on board.
Europe appears determined in declaring the
importance of putting an end to the Iranian attempt to go nuclear, but Europe
can do more. The volume of trade between certain European countries and Iran
remains quite heavy. An organized world has the ability to act in a concerted
manner to make it clear to Iran that it needs to change its policy.
the end, this battle will determine not only the standing of Iran, but, to a
large extent, the standing of the United States and its power and role in the
world in the 21st century. Iran says that America is an empire of the past, and
that the American economy, the bedrock of American strength, is weak. I believe
that America has enough power to reinvent itself economically and restore its
power, but the perception that Iran is spreading is just the
Israel did not need WikiLeaks to know what some neighboring
regimes think of Iran. In meetings with an important American politician who was
in Israel after having visited six or seven Arab countries regarding the
Palestinian- Israeli issue, he said that on average each meeting was 10 percent
about the Palestinian issue and 90% about Iran. If the countries which oppose
Iran get weaker, it is better for Iran. Egypt was one of those countries which
stood against Iran with the West. We do not want to see the strengthening of the
radical axis and the weakening of the moderate axis.
The role of the free
world is to support the Iranian opposition. Not that support will immediately
bring them victory, but support is the main source of their confidence in the
possibility of victory. Many people who lived in the Soviet Union and fought
against the Soviet regime to let the Jews out have said that as long as nobody
in the world knew about them, from the time of Stalin to Brezhnev, there was
little chance of success. When the world started to know and react, the Jews
knew there was a chance of success and this reinforced their struggle.
is important that Iran’s perception does not gain a hold on the thinking of
people in the Middle East and around the world. If America takes an openly
stated, clear lead and coalesces with its natural partners in this campaign,
this can improve America’s role in the world order that all of us want to see.
Even though we all have different state interests, we are part of the camp that
America has been leading for the last 70 years in terms of values, way of life,
and democracy. It is important to us that this camp not lose its power in the
world, and that is why a strong America is a very clear Israeli interest,
regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in
Negotiating with Syria? Syria is the main political ally of Iran
in the Arab world. I am one of those few Israelis who think that we should
negotiate with Syria, not that I like what the Syrian regime is doing. Will
there be an agreement in the end? I know what they want from me, but what I want
from them is a full peace, like Jordan and Egypt. They must stop the support of
terror organizations, including Hezbollah, and cut away from the Iranian axis.
It is an open question whether we can get all of this.
It has to do with
the strength of America and Iran. There is not just an Israeli- Syrian closed
circle; there is a bigger circle of power relationships that needs to be taken
into account.The writer is deputy prime minister and minister of
intelligence and atomic energy. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on a
recent presentation to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem
Center for Public Affairs.