Yes, you read the title of this blog correctly. Unless the Jewish state and the government in Berlin begin a coordinated attempt at restructuring the security architecture for both Europe and the Middle East, the chances of a third world war are higher now than at any time since the late 1930s. Talk about historical irony, who would have believed that such a partnership was either necessary or even possible? But it is dramatically true that Germany and Israel hold the key to peace between Russia and the United States.
President Trump was right the first time, NATO is definitely obsolete. Its expansion eastward has so shaken the balance of power in Europe that a permanent state of instability now occurs anywhere on the globe where Moscow and Washington might confront each other. This is especially true after the American president promised Israel and the Sunni Arab states that the number one foreign policy goal of his administration would be to defeat extremist Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world. This not only includes ISIS in Iraq and Syria but also all Iranian affiliated groups, along with Iranian expeditionary forces directly. The US lists Iran as the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world today. But Russia has allied with Iran in Syria and beyond. A muscular US policy toward Iran could escalate quickly into a place where neither the Kremlin nor Trump really want to go.
During the Obama years the issue of the Iran nuclear program was compartmentalized from the overt expansion of Iranian terrorist proxy power in the Middle East. Obama bent over backwards to the Iranian clerical leadership over both the nature of the deal (the JCPOA) and Iran’s expansionary behavior within its region. With the election of Donald Trump, this overt compartmentalization has now reversed its direction. Trump will maintain the deal (with great scrutiny) but sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s terrorism and regional behavior will be maintained and enhanced. The Trump administration will expect that Germany, France and the UK strictly adhere to the program. This will place the JCPOA on very shaky ground.
Trump also expects his Western European allies to pay their fair share of the NATO budget, while contributing their fair share of troops. For now, the US foreign policy establishment (including some of the president’s own team) have pushed Trump to state that NATO is not obsolete. But essentially, and depending on the German payment response, the American president could easily change his mind again. Either the European nations of NATO (especially Germany) pay up — and also support a tough US policy against Iranian expansion in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — or Donald Trump could once again utter those dreaded words that NATO has become obsolete. In fact, these very same words have great resonance among the working class and poor people of the US. This is true on both the left and the right. They ask: “Why not balance the US budget on the backs of the rich Germans and other Europeans instead of us”? This is a vital question that is sure to arise during the next election cycle (2018).
In the Middle East, Iran is both an ideological revolutionary regime and a normal geopolitical state simultaneously. In fact, on May 19th, 41 million Iranians came out to vote for a president who has clearly placed Iran’s interest away from revolutionary isolation and toward regional and global normalization. But unfortunately the Iranian president does not control the system. At best he holds a tenuous position of economic normalization through a potential Iranian-American dialog on regional stability.
However any potential dialog or negotiation will depend primarily on the Iranian Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards. But without a global consensus on Iran (Russia and China included) regional stability is an impossible task within the current JCPOA. The fact of the matter is that after a decade, Iran’s nuclear program will, once again, be allowed to grow and intensify. This means that any possible near-term negotiation on regional behavior — without a dramatic alternative to the JCPOA — must also possess a serious alternative nuclear component. This will further complicate the situation, demanding a dramatic change in policy by all signatories to the agreement.
The EU and Germany warmly welcomed the election of the second term of the Iranian president. But the US under the leadership of the Trump administration understands that deeds are far greater than words. Trump, in Saudi Arabia, never once mentioned the Iranian people’s electoral quest for political normalization and regional peace. Trump talked instead of a kind of eventual regime change caused by serious US pressure. But such talk diminishes the chances of peace unless the people of Iran (the 41 million who voted for Rouhani) can be separated from the Revolutionary Guards and the expansionary inclinations of its leadership. In other words, where is the alternative to tough action and sanctions alone?
However, Iranian expansion does have a geopolitical rationality to its reality. Take away the revolutionary and hegemonic propaganda and Iranian encirclement — surrounded as it is by American military bases — would still be an extremely serious problem. As a normal geopolitical state, Iran understands the very same geopolitical principles that any other state understands. Iran chooses not to be an American satrapy. Instead, it chooses a region free of US hegemony. This is why it pursues a nuclear program. It is surrounded by nuclear powers — Israel to the west, Pakistan to the east, Russia to the north and the US as regional hegemon. If Donald Trump is going to play “bad cop” with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who is going to play “good cop” to the Iranian Islamic Republic’s leadership that wants reform and regional peace? That is some policy other than just the prospect of an American-induced regime change?
In Europe, for peace to be achieved — which would go a long way toward convincing the Revolutionary Guard that its forward strategy does not have a permanent Russian support — Germany and the EU countries must engineer a new security relationship with the Kremlin. Europe is now caught in a serious double bind. European nations risk a severe Russian-American escalation in the Middle East, forcing them to choose between an embrace of their status-quo NATO position or the wrath of Trump. In such a scenario — that is, war or an American pull-back from Europe — Germany and the EU nations lose either way. After over seventy years, and trillions of dollars of expense, the Trump position on NATO is certainly not without cause. However, to endure the possibility of war in the face of Russian demands (that NATO leave its borders), and without clear American support would be anathema to Germany. Instead, Berlin must adopt an alternative negotiation with the Kremlin to adiopt a new European security architecture which is defensive in nature, integrated as necessary, and secure for all states. This would be a great contribution to world peace because it would relieve the Russians of the necessity of challenging the US anywhere else on the globe.
Everyone understands that Israel and the Sunni Arab states have welcomed a tough Trump approach to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (and rightly so). But what is the plan for the vast majority of the Iranian people who seek regional peace, reform and normalization? Where is the understanding of the Iranian position visa vie the US and its regional position as a military player stationed within bases across the Middle East? Where is the understanding for the Iran’s weak geopolitical position during the Iran-Iraq war and especially a decade later during the US invasion of Iraq? And how does the prospect of Trump’s call for Iranian Revolutionary Guard isolation — without regional alternative solutions to both the JCPOA and the conventional balance of power — weaken President Rouhani in his all-important quest for peace and normalization?
An alternative security architecture for Europe (Germany’s project), and a nuclear and conventional security regime are desperately needed for the Middle East (Israel’s project). Here is my proposal to bring together Israel and the Sunni Arab states within the context of a concrete blueprint to present to President Rouhani. It is meant as both a conventional balance of power and the alternative to the current interim JCPOA. Most importantly, it is meant as a way of avoiding a North Korean style nuclear proliferation in the near future. It is also meant as the regional dynamic (the outside-in approach concept) to spur a conclusion to the Arab-Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
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 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 the Zone of Peace 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 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.
Germany and Israel, Europe and the Middle East, if the present course of geopolitics does not change, sooner rather than later a disaster will occur. In this post-Holocaust era let the German-Israeli relationship lead to a solid and lasting world at peace. There could be nothing more symbolic of G-d’s will and global moral intent than if these two nations led the way.