The nuclear deal with Iran means many things to the world depending on who you are and what your point of view is but the 5+1 talks only mean one thing for every state in the Middle East from Riyadh to Jerusalem, From Baghdad to Damascus, from Beirut to Cairo, form Algiers to Muscat, the world will need to face down a Iranian regime seeking military expansion. The point of an Iranian nuclear program is to defend Iranian’s attempt at regional and extra-regional hegemony thus the point of a US deal with Iran is to accept Iran’s expansion but without nuclear weapons being added to the mix of weapons at Iran’s disposal. This leaves the Middle East on its own to deal Syria, Iraq and Iran as well as Middle East Peace between Israelis and Arabs and yet it will have to do with a series of regimes that are autocratic and therefore less than effectual in creating the kinds of regional bonds that may hold up Iran’s exporting of revolution and terror as well as the terrorism of ISIS. Nonetheless, this may be the moment the Middle East has no choice but to rise to the challenges facing it by finding more unity. Currently there are four factions vying for power; Saudi-Israel-Jordanian, Egyptian, Kurdish alliance (Gulf-Levantine Alliance for lack of a better term) as against ISIS, The Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian-Syrian-Houthi-Hezbollah Shiite Crescent; The Turkey-Qatar-Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood Axis as ant-Kurdish, Anti-Semitic and accused of supporting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State; The Shiite Crescent as led and funded by Iran which includes Iran, Parts of or influence in Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria; the Islamic State. Two of the Movements are deeply influenced by central Asia with one being led by Iran and the other by Turkey although both nation have good reason to also think of themselves as Middle Eastern but then one has to think of the Middle East as a place than includes Central Asia. The Question is can the Gulf-Levantine Alliance become formal and create the kind of unity that will be embraced by their public. It appears both Saudi-Arabia and Egypt have taken baby steps to de-demonizing Israel and Jewry but nothing that tells the public that Iran and the Islamic State make for strange bedfellows. Yet we have not seen a time like this since the end of World War I where Gulf Monarchies are talking to Israelis, A Kurdish State is once a again a possibility and the map of the Middle East may be changing to reflect incredible changes in Syria and Iraq. The Levant will certainly be much better off it if can throw out the meddling influence of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State while the Gulf States will be far better off if Iran is banished from the region and the Islamic State and Iran are eliminated as regional influences. The Middle East shouldn’t need the US or the West to accomplish these things but it always has.
Can Iran be trusted in a nuclear deal?
One expects the worst case scenario to be that Iran will develop nuclear weapons over time like North Korea has done but as I have written elsewhere North Korea is an artificial state that is an expense of the Chinese Economy which uses it as a buffer against its neighbors as well as a means of frustrating the US as a superpower. Iran will use this deal as a means to import and export more conventional weapons and more varieties of conventional weapons, further develop of nuclear capable missile delivery system and more slowly develop nuclear weapons program. During this time, Iran can expect more buy in from its public as the economy improves and Shiite tyranny is on the march. Iran has up to now been very brittle and it may the youthful population in Iran as it grows will eventually shake off the theocratic dictatorship, especially if the nuclear “dividend” is not adequately spent on the public both otherwise the world should expect another 10-20 years of popular support for the Iranian regime by the Iranian public. The US and the West must be hoping that Iran will meld itself into the Middle East and world economy to the point where it becomes a reactionary power fully vested in the status quo. I find it hard to believe a religious dictator can be so affected and the perceptions and needs of the “supreme leader” are paramount, we’ve been through three Korean “supreme leaders” who have all been quite happy to starve their people for its own convenience. How could Iran’s Supreme Leader be any different from North Korea’s Kim Family? The short answer is no different and the world will see an Iran increasingly able to export military power conventionally, asymmetrically and eventually with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the US has succeeded in slowing the nuclear program but it has also succeeded in stabilizing Iran and now the only way to prevent Iran from developing nukes may be Iran realizing all its dreams without nuclear weapons but that is a world we probably will not be allowed to live in and we may decide to count ourselves lucky for that to be the case.
What is the future of the West in the Middle East?
We know the Obama administration would like to be out of the Middle East but a deal like this if it passes congress will be a change that will last for decades. Especially if the US can maintain and increase its energy Independence and is willing to allow both Europe and Asia to compete for energy resources without US influence and management. The EU could increase its heft in the Middle East but it has little to offer militarily and diplomatically. Europe probably already has played all its cards and really European foreign policy in the Middle East was purchased at the pump decades ago. The West’s only interest in the Middle East will really be keeping China out but that will be difficult, especially in China could easily support of Gulf-Levantine alliance as being in both its domestic and international interests.Could This Be A Good Deal After All?Almost every agreement in the Middle East since the conquest and breakup of the Ottoman Empire has led to war. The creation of Iraq and Syria has led to war, the Partition of Mandatory Palestine into Jordan led to several wars as did the attempt to further divide Eretz Israel, the creation of Lebanon also caused many wars and so on. The peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan have held up and even now all out regional war seems more remote except for the expansion of the Islamic State and Iran. Frankly the agreement doesn’t look like a peace deal, it looks like a rule to war with limitations on how Iran will wage war in exchange with limitations on how Iran can limited economically. All this presumes Iran has any intention of not going nuclear and it may well be willing to go slower in order to further develop its nuclear delivery system and have parity with the West. However, the technological developments of the West over the next several decades in all fields may make Iranian weapons systems both expensive and irrelevant which makes this agreement less relevant and more foolish since Iran was a brittle nation with little domestic support exacerbated by the poor economy. Ultimately, could this be a good deal for the West but I think the regime imploding would have been better. Iran cannot be our ally against ISIS like The Soviets were against the Nazis nor do the Iranians seem stupid enough to expand in a way that directly taxes their economy as the Soviets did. On the other hand the US has fewer and fewer reasons to be in the Middle East as a local military power at all. Such a change could be alarming but a US as a benefactor to a Gulf-Levantine alliance may be a long term positive but that means such an alliance will have to be formed with the consent of the governed and that remains more of a wish than a possibility but the heat of both ISIS and an expanding Iran may forge such an alliance. Nonetheless, a US that is out of the Middle East would be preferable the nuclear deal and it looks like we’ve traded an opportunity to see Iran collapse with a kick the can down the road strategy which at least guarantees long term regional conflicts and perhaps a nuclear war. What world gains from this deal is a nation that will be far more aggressive than North Korea and that does not look like a good deal to me.