It's all about Iran

Were the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan achieved because the right diplomats came along?

October 25, 2007 22:45
3 minute read.
It's all about Iran

Ahamdinejad assad 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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Speaking 12 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin this week, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert both drew a line connecting the Oslo Accords and the current diplomatic process, aiming for a summit next month in Annapolis. "More than once I wondered... what led Rabin to take the path of Oslo," Olmert said. "Rabin went through torment before beginning serious diplomatic actions. I don't know if the time for peace is yet ripe, but I know it is my duty... to do everything to advance that time and bring it closer." With reason, Olmert does not seem convinced that the time is ripe. "We already know that peace isn't made at international meetings," he said. "Peace is made through goodwill and real willingness to accept the other, while understanding his needs and fears." Yes and no. It is certainly true that the role of diplomacy in creating peace tends to be overrated, since agreements are generally more the product, not the source, of changes on the ground. Were the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan achieved because the right diplomats came along, or because the wars of 1967 and 1973 had drastically changed the regional landscape? In the Arab-Israeli case, peace is a function of "goodwill" in the sense of an Arab decision to give up trying to destroy Israel and accept the Jewish people's sovereign rights in its ancient homeland. But what brings this goodwill? A comparison between the global landscape in 1993, when Rabin, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, and today is telling. During the five years leading up to 1993, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait had been reversed by an American-led coalition, Palestinians were evicted from the Gulf states and the PLO was in financial collapse, the Madrid conference had brought Arab states (even Syria) to the table with Israel, and a million-strong influx of freed Soviet Jews was in the process of arriving in Israel. Back then, the US was not only the world's uncontested superpower, but the "end of history" (as a famous book title asserted at that time) seemed to have arrived, in which freedom and democracy were on the march and faced no coherent challengers. Such is hardly the case today. Though they were preceded by a string of atrocities that should have constituted ample warning, the 9/11 attacks formally ended the decade in which the West had rested on its laurels. Other major attacks ensued in Bali, Madrid, London and elsewhere, not to mention the intensification of the suicide bombing campaign against Israel that began in late 2000. The dispatching, again by a US-led coalition, of the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, certainly demonstrated that the West was willing and able to inflict serious setbacks against the jihadi cause. But the Iranian regime, by far the largest and most brazen proponent of Islamofascism, was not only left intact, but has been able to foment four conflicts - in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza - with relative impunity. The West is at a crossroads where it must decide whether to correct this major, perhaps fatal, omission. More than they have their eyes on Annapolis, the jihadi front and the governments and peoples arrayed against it are watching to see: will Iran not only continue to get away with rampant support for terrorism, but spread a nuclear umbrella over its aggression as well? The reported US decision to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is certainly welcome, but why is it even controversial? Why is Hillary Clinton under attack in her own party for voting for this proposition in the Senate, and why was she the only Democratic presidential candidate to support the measure? We do not know whether Annapolis will produce a baby-step forward toward peace. The effort to restart a constructive process is certainly desired, but the rush to a summit seems misguided, quite possibly dangerous. The greatest danger, however, is that Annapolis might be considered a substitute for, or become a distraction from, the overarching requirement for any peace process to have a chance: forcing Iran to back down. Without that, nothing achieved at Annapolis - or in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, for that matter - has a hope of sticking over the long term. By the same token, a turning back of the Iranian challenge could significantly increase the prospects for success on all of these fronts.

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