Now that the Saudi government has essentially accepted the Iran nuclear deal (an interim deal lasting at best fifteen years), it is certainly not too soon to attempt to envision a more permanent solution. In their acceptance of the nuclear deal, the Saudis dispelled any notion that the US-led initiative was a final or lasting structure to prevent the proliferation of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. On the contrary, nearly everyone in the world (excluding President Obama) understands that without a follow-up nuclear agreement — in such a short interim time frame — the centrifugal forces unleashed by the current agreement can only lead to a mad dash toward the bomb.
If the Obama administration hasn’t noticed, the Middle East is engaged in a regional war to roll back Iranian imperialism and aggression. Within this context the short sunset clause of the Iran deal, the lifting of the sanctions, and the fact that at the end of the deal Iran will be in possession of an industrial-level nuclear program, mean that the danger of the war’s intensification has increased. Similarly, the push toward nuclear weapons production will intensify as the short sunset clause winds down toward expiration. But at least the Saudis understand that unless Iran cheats (most likely at military sites), the region still has ten years to pursue a nuclear-weapons-free zone, diplomatic follow-up agreement. The Saudi government spokesman was direct in his appraisal that the best follow-up to the current interim nuclear deal is for the region to abandon all programs with the capability of producing atomic weapons. This means that Israel’s nuclear program will come under intense scrutiny as the nuclear midnight hour approaches.
However, the Saudi approach to the regional atomic time-bomb cannot be just a mere exercise in anti-Israeli propaganda. That tactic has already been started by the Iranians. Of course, no one in Israel is taking Tehran seriously. In fact, as long as Iran has the capacity to produce atomic bombs, along with its desire for regional Islamic and geopolitical hegemony, nuclear proliferation becomes inevitable. So it’s really a question of Saudi religious and political ingenuity whether or not the region can adopt a framework that could entice Israel to want to partner with its Sunni Arab state neighbors toward a nuclear-weapons-free zone. In other words, what is needed is a broader conceptualization of a regional peace structure in order for Israel to take such a nuclear- free-zone idea seriously.
Without a regional peace structure envisioned, the disarming of any weapon system in the middle of the current war (or any war) becomes a ludicrous notion. And with the Iran nuclear deal, the vast expansion of the current war is highly likely. The Saudis can’t just repeat the worn-out solution of such a nuclear-free zone without a much broader context in which war and hegemony are, in fact, equally outlawed. On the cultural-religious level there must be a distinct division between an Iranian theology which rejects Israel’s existence and a Saudi-led Sunni theology which advises that Israel has the Koranic seal of approval.
In other words, Israel must be recognized as a product of a Divine injunction which the leaders and authorities of the Saudi-led Sunni state coalition recognize as Divinely-approved reality. In the final analysis, it will be a Sunni theological challenge to Iran that carries the day within the region. It is only such a peaceful regional superstructure, religious as well as political and with the authority of all the Sunni states, which could eventually house a nuclear-weapons-free zone that Israel could agree to.
Within this context, both conventional war and proxy war must be strictly prohibited. Also, non-state militias (such as Hezbollah and many others) must be disarmed and placed under the auspices of government authority. But foreign forces must never be allowed basing rights unless a clear case of aggression against a regional state has been discerned. Without such an anti-war and anti-imperial superstructure, the continuous shifting sands of an elusive balance of power will forever plague the Middle East. The superstructure which houses the nuclear-weapons-free zone must become a permanent structure to replace the twists and turns that currently upset any foundation of stability. One could easily argue that the only permanence in the Middle East over the last one hundred years has been the institution of war and coercion. But such coercion is against both the Koran and the Torah. So how could peoples who claim to be the standard-bearers of the Abrahamic inheritance allow such deviation from Divine Truth?
They shouldn’t, and it must stop! There must be a leader within the Muslim world who has the courage to come forward and envision a new Middle East. I certainly don’t see this happening in Qom, but the prospects are good for Mecca and Riyadh, Cairo and Al Azhar, and even perhaps Najaf. The key is, of course, the King of Saudi Arabia. He must decide whether the Middle East will be nuclear or non-nuclear. There is no one else on earth with the authority and the power to alter the course of Islamic destiny and find friendship with the Jewish people. Yes, there is a Palestinian problem, but it must not be allowed to impinge on the necessity of a broader and more Divinely-sanctioned regional and global imperative. If Israel is threatened by a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, so too are the Palestinians. I am confident that peace and security with dignity can be found within the original borders of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. But the question of nuclear weapons and regional peace is much deeper and broader than the fate of one or two nations. Such dramatic escalation involves the entire world.
What is needed immediately is a conference of Sunni states and Israel to discuss the interim nature of the Iran nuclear deal and to propose an alternative superstructure that can begin to be implemented within the next ten years. This conference should be led by the King of Saudi Arabia at a venue of his discretion. It could have both a political format (heads of government and foreign ministers) and a religious inter-faith motif (Islamic-Jewish). To bring together such a serious conference will capture the imagination not only of the countries of the P5+1, but of the entire world.
If the events of the last five years are to have any lasting significance, then certainly the Divine ruling against coercion in religion is not exempt from politics and geopolitical reality. For all the killing in Syria and beyond, the very name of God is being sullied by humans seeking to speak for Him. But the word of God can be found in both Torah and Koran, and that word is certainly NOT about the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. No true Muslim could ever believe in that. And, in fact, no true Muslim or Jew could ever kill each other, or any human for that matter. That is why this conference is so very important, because there are far too many people who simply don’t understand the nature and direction of a Divine-inspired history. For Islam and Judaism to be of any global significance, it is peace and not war which must triumph. I invite the King of Saudi Arabia to move this idea forward. I pray he does, and I pray for him as well, because the future of the world rests on his shoulders.