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October 15, 2015 7:52 am

A Parallel Crescent to Stop Iran in Its Tracks

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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Iran's Arak Heavy Water reactor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Iran’s Arak Heavy Water reactor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Anyone who has followed Iran’s behavior since the 1979 Revolution cannot escape the fact that Iran is bent on restoring some, if not much, of its historical glory as the empire that for centuries dominated the Middle East and beyond. The 2003 Iraq War, which brought the Iraqi Shiites to power, provided Iran with a momentous opportunity to establish a strong foothold in Baghdad.

Regardless of the Iran deal, Tehran’s quest to become a nuclear power will not change. Iran is determined to maintain its dominant role over the crescent extending from the Mediterranean to the Gulf (including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon), which is at the core of its long-standing drive to emerge as the region’s hegemon.

The real or perceived threat against Israel and the Sunni Arab states that Iran poses, however, cannot be dealt with by merely reiterating how ominously dangerous Iran is, as Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Arab leaders have often done.

Although the Iran deal is designed to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, Tehran will eventually attain the technology and materials necessary to produce a nuclear weapon in short order. Indeed, in spite of the sanctions that nearly crippled its economy, Iran has remained resolute in pursuing policies consistent with its overall objective.

In fact, there is little that either Israel or the international community can do to prevent Iran from realizing the nuclear threshold once the deal expires, or perhaps even before that.

Attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities now or in the foreseeable future will do no more than temporarily halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program for only a few years. Iran will then be in a position to resume it with greater resolve and reject any international monitoring. Moreover, the unpredictable consequences of such attacks could ignite a major regional conflagration that neither Israel nor the Sunni Arab states want.

For these reasons, to counter Iran’s regional ambition, Israel and the Sunni Arab states should establish a parallel crescent to stop Iran in its tracks. The new crescent would extend from the Gulf to the Mediterranean and include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt, with a Sunni population of approximately 136 million, versus Iran, Iraq, Lebanon (where Hezbollah wields significant power), and Syria (where the vast majority of Shiites are Alawite), with approximately 99 million Shiites.

All ten states share deep concerns about Iran’s regional ambition and all wish to eliminate, or at a minimum neutralize, Iran’s dominance in the years ahead. Creating such a crescent, with strong military and strategic cooperation between all the states, will send a clear message to Iran that it has ‘no place to go but east,’ and that crossing this ‘red line’ will be at its own peril.

The main problem here, of course, is the missing link. Given that there is no Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Arab states will not agree to establish such a bloc that will include Israel, which is a critical requisite not only for establishing a contiguous land mass, but also because of Israel’s military prowess, which can undercut Iran’s interventionist strategy.

Any Israeli Prime Minister, especially Netanyahu, who relentlessly invokes the existential threat that Iran poses, needs to recognize that the new geostrategic development in the region offers Israel a golden opportunity to effectively neutralize the Iranian threat and at the same time reach a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

Such a peace would substantially strengthen Israel’s national security and neutralize not only the Iranian threat but that of any other extremist group that Iran sponsors, such as Hezbollah.

The danger that Iran poses has already brought Israel and the Sunni Arab states much closer to one another. Currently, there is extensive collaboration and intelligence-sharing between the two sides. The Arab states view Shiite Iran, not Israel, as the greatest threat to their sovereignty. They also know that whereas Israel still occupies the West Bank, it has no desire to dominate any Arab state.

The Iranian threat, which will persist for years, if not decades, should be the catalyst for creating a formal new Arab-Israeli alignment with the strong support of the United States. The common denominators that unite them today are far greater than their disagreement over the Israeli occupation, which is an inescapable fact that Israel must bring to an end.

The current violent flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians offer a crude wake-up call to every Israeli that occupation is the ‘mother of all evil.’

Rather than continuing to drum up the danger of the Iran deal, Netanyahu should focus on addressing the more urgent conflict with the Palestinians, which has the potential of either exploding with disastrous consequences or providing the impetus for a new peace initiative that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To that end, I go back to what I have always believed to be the most important peace proposal that has collectively emerged from the Arab States — the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which offers Israel peace with all Arab/Muslim countries in return for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

It is time for the Israeli government to adopt the API as a basis for negotiations and disabuse any Israeli of the notion that this Initiative is offered on a take it or leave it basis. Netanyahu himself has repeatedly advocated that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can be reached in the context of an overall Arab-Israeli peace.

The three major countries in this prospective alliance — namely Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia — together possess the most powerful conventional military machine in the Middle East (augmented with nuclear weapons) that Iran, with or without such weapons, will not dare to challenge.

The turmoil in the Middle East is laden with incredible danger unmatched by any since the Second World War, from which no single country can fully shield itself. Yet, the regional turmoil coupled with the Iranian threat offers new opportunities for this revolutionary geopolitical change to occur.

Some would think this is wishful thinking, but history has shown time and again that leaders with vision and courage can engender a major breakthrough from the ruins of a complete breakdown, and change the course of history.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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  • Max Genghis Cohen

    Dr. Ben-Meir: Reading your appeal to Israelis to adopt an API after half a century of Arab promises to drive Israel into the sea seems to border on a plot to deceive Israelis. Your proposal should be brought before councils of Palestinians urging their disavowal of violence before Israelis can be expected to welcome concessions to vulnerability. The Arab world must demonstrate that peace in the Middle East includes, and may also depend, on religious peace.

  • Michael Pielet

    Alon Ben Meir conveniently ignores the reality that the establishment of an arab terrorist state in Judea and Samaria will be a spring board for Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah to attack israel from the east.

    This all part of Iran’s plan to establish hegemony in the middle east and destroy the state of israel.

    Its very sad that Alon is incapable of understanding that basic reality.

    Alon is blinded by his own ideology.

  • Gnomercy9

    So turning Judea and Samaria into a second, more strategic, and better armed Gaza is the key to stopping Iran…. but not crippling sanctions that would drive the people to revolution against the regime.

    That did happen – in 2009 – and Obama left those people hanging – the revolution failed – and Obama is now removing the sanctions. Now the infusion of cash, veneer of legitimacy, and resumption of trade is going to further entrench and better arm the theocratic Iranian regime and its proxies (particularly those in S. Lebanon and Judea & Samaria).

    As an IR professor, Dr. Ben-Meir knows this. He knows the actors involved. He’s read every author from Mearsheimer to Stephens. He’s read Said and understands Salafism. He’s read the Hamas Charter and knows the nature of the Iranian regime and its aspirations. Like Obama, he is proposing ineffective action to that will achieve the opposite of its stated goals – a Blackjack dealer purposely going bust.

    Dr. Ben-Meir may speak like a peacenik, but his every proposal brings WWIII one step closer.

  • jeremy

    The Iran deal was because Europe (the EU and Britain) wants to use Iranian markets and anti-Americanism, to catapult themselves into the seat of world power, by relatively weakening US exports, compared to the EU’s.

    Obama did it because he loves non-Arab Islam. He is from Indonesia, a non-Arab Islamic country. His Indonesian half-sister, who is a left-wing radical ethnic studies professor, taught him everything he knows.

    • jeremy

      Also this article is a joke. They are Salafists, the Koran does not allow them to make long term deals with Jews. the day of judgement can only come when they kill all Jews, hiding behind their Ghorkid trees. Among hundreds of thousands of anti-Jewish laws Shia and Sunni have.

      You’re ignorance is beyond. There are streets in Iran named after Sunni Martyrs.

      They are not really against Iran it is all a game. They will choose Iran over Israel in the end. As the Koran says they should, there are Christians in Muslim countries but no other ethnicitys for a reason. The Koran says so. It is now time for them to begin killing the last Christians, they are definitely not making deals with Jews.

      The 2 most totalitarian groups to ever exist, the current Left of dumb Alon-Ben Meir, of a one world centralized socialist government, aand Wahabi Salafi Islam, wanted to make a Hitler-Stalin Pact for a while, as this article does in the name of “peace” this is evil not “peace” it is impossible for it to last. Both those greatest evils in human history must be destroyed, not unified. Will be destroyed or will destroy itself eventually.