The Iranian nuclear issue can evolve in only one of three ways. First, it could lead to a pre-emptive strike in order to stop Iran from achieving either a bomb or rapid undetectable breakout capacity. Second, Iran could develop a bomb or its equivalent capability. Third, an historic “Grand Bargain” could be struck whereby the region of the Middle East could be put on a fast track toward peace.
But the conventional diplomatic wisdom suggests only a small bargain, not a grand one. Iran makes limited concessions in exchange for the slow but steady lifting of sanctions. Perhaps they might advocate for the closing of their underground facility at Fordow. Instead they might offer other measures like decreased stockpiling of enriched materials or a more viable international access. But the Iranians will never go far enough to assure the region that they won’t possess breakout capacity. They insist on their right to nuclear enrichment as a part of any small deal. They claim that this enrichment is only for electrical production, but meanwhile Iran sits on a sea of oil and natural gas.
Israel categorically rejects this small deal formula but is unsure about either US resolve or the intentions of the other countries on the P5+1. Either way, a small deal would still leave Israel exposed in a number of ways, including the eventuality of a risky and uncertain containment policy. Because of this uncertainty, a small could lead to the advent of
a dramatic nuclear proliferation within the region. On the other hand, Israel risks extreme isolation from the international community if it attempts a pre-emptive strike. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a small deal will meet the necessary conditions to assuage legitimate Israel fears of Iranian capability.
But where is the Israeli counter to the recent Iranian “peace offensive”? And what would an Israeli historic Grand Bargain look like?
For the last thirty-five years, since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the region of the Middle East has become a raging inferno of war and proxy war for dominance between contending nations with conflicting strategic interests.
Of all the regions in the world, this particular region is the last place on earth to expect to contain a nuclear arms race.
To break out of its isolation, Israel needs to put forward a dramatic regional peace plan of its own. Instead of waiting for others to claim the mantle of peace, why not initiate a plan for the region which could test, once and for all,
the true intentions of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Iran, under its new president, claims to be a peace-loving nation. The Iranian president avows that his country is no threat to the region. Yet Iran arms terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which aims eighty-thousand missiles at Israeli civilians. It does the same with Hamas in Gaza. Meanwhile its elite Quds force (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) is playing an instrumental role on Assad’s side in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has actively intervened in the same war
under the direct authority of an Iranian commander, Qassim Suleimani. He fights under the murderous banner of resistance to Israel, the US and the West. Iranian strategic depth now stretches from its own western border all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
All of this is a direct threat to Israel. Because of these Iranian activities in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, Iran and Israel are in a virtual yet ambivalent state of war. It has now become clear to many Middle East analysts that any nuclear deal with Iran must encompass the entire region, including US naval and air force assets.
So what would a framework for a fair and equitable Israeli Grand Bargain consist of? Wouldn’t an Israeli attempt at rapprochement with Iran test the Islamic Republic’s true intentions? Here’s my take on an Israeli regional Grand Bargain:
1) A zone of peace shall be established among the states of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, so that trade and navigation may move uninterrupted.
2) All foreign navies shall be banned from the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.
3) All foreign air forces shall be denied the right to bases throughout the zone of peace.
4) No state in the zone may attack another state.
5) If such an attack should occur, the permanent members of the UN Security Council would automatically come to the aid of the aggrieved state (points 2 and 3 would be temporarily lifted).
6) If such an attack should occur, the states within the zone would come to the aid of the aggrieved state.
7) Only sovereign states would be allowed to possess military equipment. All extra-territorial militias and their equipment
would not be allowed within the zone.
8) Nuclear enrichment could only be allowed for limited peaceful civilian purposes and the level of enrichment kept under five percent. Stockpiling of enriched materials would not be allowed. Centrifuge numbers and quality would be limited.
All nuclear facilities must be kept above ground. The reprocessing of plutonium would be outlawed. All regional nuclear programs would be kept under the strictest verification procedures of the IAEA. Regional members would be allowed to challenge both the nuclear programs and the top nuclear officials of other member states.
9) All states within the zone of peace must recognize and have diplomatic relations with all other states.
10) All states in the zone must sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty).
11) All states in the zone shall pledge their allegiance to a non-hegemonic regional structure. States within the zone will also pledge not to conspire with other states for the purpose of such hegemony.
12) The Israeli-Palestinian conflict shall be concluded by the parties themselves through negotiation. No outside foreign coercion shall be allowed, and the basis of the final compromise shall be Palestinian self-determination in exchange for Israeli security within appropriate conventional strategic parameters.
Recently, President Obama declared that he had spoken with Iranian President Rouhani. The US president said he was persuaded that there was a basis for an agreement between Iran and America. But President Obama didn’t specify whether that agreement would be a small deal or a Grand Bargain.