There are only two alternatives to the current Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. They are either a massive regional war with the likelihood of a US-Russia confrontation, or an alternative peace plan which can capture the imagination of the entire world.
The US-Israel strategy to either “fix or nix” the current JCPOA is unworkable and will certainly fail to accomplish a non-nuclear Middle East. To fix the JCPOA will require a plan that the entire world can rally behind. So far, both Trump and Israel are totally isolated on their “fix it” strategy. But to nix the JCPOA (without an alternative plan that leaves no country with a monopoly of nuclear weapons or conventional power) will mean that the US and Israel will remain even further alone and isolated. In such a scenario, Iran will be free to pursue its nuclear program in the absence of any restraint other than direct military action from either Washington or Jerusalem. Such a situation would most likely lead to either a nuclear Iran or war.
No nation can countenance being dictated to. Iran is certainly no exception. But for a Trump-Netanyahu strategy to succeed against Iran, it must have bipartisan support in Congress. But for such Congressional support to be effective, a new peace plan must be weighed against the backdrop of American non-isolation and the potential absence of another Middle East war. In other words, the replacement to the JCPOA must win over the world to its vision of potential peace. But Trump’s constant bellicose tweets — like those toward North Korea– only fuel the threat of imminent war. Regime-change fears can always backfire and lead to miscalculation and escalation.
In such a scenario, without a peace plan to win-over the world, the crucial bipartisan support in Congress is simply never going to happen. The whole reason Obama signed such a flawed deal (the JCPOA) was his promise to the American people not to involve them in any more long and drawn-out wars. Iran understood Obama’s situation. Trump — isolated from his allies, and threatening to nix the only restraint on an Iranian nuclear breakout — will place himself in a similar situation. Can Trump really be advocating going to war against both North Korea and Iran almost simultaneously?
The JCPOA is flawed, extremely flawed. In the end (with its sunset clauses), if not replaced by a much better plan, it can only lead to a nuclear Iran. But so too is the current Trump-Natanyahu strategy of “fix it (on our terms only) or nix it” — also flawed. To achieve any progress, the truth of four premises must be firmly established.
First, the idea that Israel can hold a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East in perpetuity is a delusion. Second, in a Middle East with multiple nations in possession of nuclear weapons, the idea of nuclear deterrence is equally delusional. War is far too ingrained in the psyche of the region to believe that one or another side is not planning for a lethal nuclear first strike. Third, the penetration of both US and Russian forces throughout the region (like with US forces on the Korean Peninsula) spurs the development of weapons of mass destruction as a form of protection against regime change from outside-the-region powers. Fourth, without nuclear weapons, Israel would find it very difficult to hold off an Iranian regionally dominance which is linked to a potential West Bank Palestinian State, and also, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. This would become exponentially worse when (through the sunset clauses of the JCPOA) Iran would develop its own nuclear arsenal.
What to do? Israel needs to change two key security paradigms in order to win over the world (most especially, all the nations that were involved in the drafting of the JCPOA). First and foremost, Israel must now advocate for a nuclear-weapons-free zone within the regional Zone of Peace concept. This zonal concept would replace the JCPOA and would supersede the sunset clauses within the JCPOA. Second, because such a structure (the Zone of Peace) always holds the possibility of a breakdown on a conventional arms basis, Israel must be the only military force in control of both the West Bank and its portion of the Golan Heights. This means the end of the so-called two-state solution for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and a Syrian military presence on the Golan. Also on the nuclear side, in a nuclear-weapons-free zone total verification must be foolproof.
Here is my much published alternative to the JCPOA. It is called the Middle East Zone of Peace. Israeli leaders have the next five years to win over the world toward its implementation. It is the only strategy that will work; and potentially, it will have the global acceptance to isolate Iran, if Tehran does not accept its fundamental tenets. Iran needs to decide if it wants to truly moderate its behavior and quit being a revolutionary state. The US and Russia need to end their penetration of the region and allow all parties to the agreement the necessary breathing space from the fear of regime change. Finally, Israel must end its nuclear weapons monopoly. In a region on the cusp of nuclear weapons competition, such a monopoly has become an anachronism.
The Zone of Peace consists of fourteen points: 1) A Zone of Peace shall be established among the states of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, so that trade and navigation shall move uninterrupted. 2) All foreign navies shall be denied basing rights within the Zone of Peace. 3) All foreign air forces shall equally be denied basing rights within the Zone of Peace. 4) No state within the Zone of Peace may attack another state. 5) If such an attack should occur, the permanent members of the UN Security Council would come to the aid of the aggrieved state, and points 2 and 3 would become temporarily suspended. 6) If such an attack should occur, the states within the Zone of Peace would come to the aid of the aggrieved state. 7) Only sovereign states would be allowed to possess military equipment. Extra-territorial militias would be outlawed. Missiles and missile production would be kept at very low distances and numbers. 8) Nuclear enrichment would not be allowed, and its enforcement by the strictest verification regime of the IAEA would become the norm. The reprocessing of plutonium would be prohibited.
9) All states within the Zone of Peace must recognize and have diplomatic relations with all other states. 10) All states within the Zone of Peace must sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), and negotiations for a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone must begin no later than 24 months after all states have finalized mutual recognition. 11) All states within the Zone of Peace must respect the human rights of their citizens, and states whose use of force against their own citizens which violate international standards, shall be suspended from the Zone of Peace. 12) All states within the Zone of Peace shall pledge their allegiance to a non-hegemonic regional structure,and states within the Zone will also pledge not to conspire with other states for the purpose of such hegemony. 13) All states within the Zone of Peace shall abide by the rules (to be established) for the the equitable dispensation of all regional hydraulic resources. 14) The Zone of Peace is NOT dependent on the conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Furthermore, this conflict shall be decided through negotiations among the parties themselves without coercion or outside interference. Genuine compromise and goodwill must become the principles upon which these negotiations rest.
Israel needs to dramatically break out from its international isolation. The Middle East’s nuclear clock will approach midnight in a few short years. The current Trump-Netanyahu strategy portends either further isolation or war. It is time for the political echelon — in the final analysis, the free and democratic people of Israel — to demand change from dangerous policies and paradigms. There is an alternative, and Israel can win over the world.