How Middle East Leaders Actually Stop Iran

Middle East regional powers – Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – need to stop complaining about the deal global powers have struck with Iran.

Yes, the Iranians got everything they wanted and the US capitulated on the red lines they identified at the outset – when they were trying to convince you to trust them.

Yes, the Iranians will have the financial resources to build a more powerful conventional military that could transform them into the strongest military and political force in the Middle East within 5-10 years.  Yes, the Iranians will have nuclear weapons in the next 10-15 years along with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yes, the United States has abandoned you – its traditional allies in the Middle East.  And you can make a cogent argument that this agreement runs counter to US and European strategic interests, but this administration will never agree with that assessment.

But it’s time to stop complaining, because the decisions made by the Obama administration won’t be reversed. It is highly unlikely that Congress will come to the rescue – even though a recent CNN/ORC poll finds that a majority of Americans want Congress to reject the deal.

Politicians are gearing up for the next election, Democrats won’t hand Republicans a strategic victory – especially given that Hilary Clinton has endorsed President Obama’s plan.

And even if a Republican is elected President in 2016, US engagement and projection of force in the Middle East is a thing of the past. President Jeb Bush will not want to be the third Bush to launch a major military operation in the Middle East. President Hilary Clinton won’t put boots on the ground either. And even if the world experiences a President Trump, US direct intervention is a thing of the past – which must make Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan nervous.

Whether intentional or not, the US is enabling Iran to solidify and expand its power in the Middle East. The US, British, and French will gladly sell Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia more weapons, but no one is going to sacrifice American lives to ensure Middle East stability. The Carter and Reagan Doctrines are no longer in effect.

To successfully counter current and future threats from Iran, Iranian clients, and ISIS, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia should establish an Emergency Action Group. The Group would be narrowly focused on creating a bulwark against Iranian aggression.

Yes, Saudi Arabia and Egypt you both just entered into a security agreement. That is great, but with all due respect – your capabilities, even when combined, aren’t enough to blunt and reverse the Iranian ambition to achieve regional hegemony.

For that, you need Israel’s military and intelligence capabilities.  It is understandable that leading Arab countries are reticent to engage directly and publicly with Israel – given that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t resolved.

But stopping Iran is more important and teaming with Israel is the best way to counter current and future Iranian power grabs.

Everyone would agree that The Group is not designed to engage in or attempt to solve larger, more complex regional issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor should this engagement necessarily lead to formal diplomatic recognition of Israel, economic integration, or diplomatic normalization between the Arab world and Israel.

The Group should focus solely on developing and delivering a clear set of diplomatic and military initiatives based on a principle of mutual defense and regional stability.

Policy announcements should include:  

  1. Israel announces that any attack by a state or non-state actor on members of The Group will be considered an attack on Israel and will be met with an Israeli military response in coordination with The Group member attacked. If asked, Israel will help defend Group members against outside aggression
  1. Israel announces that it will extend its missile defense capabilities to protect other Group members
  1. Israel announces that it will extend its “first strike” – including missile launches from Dolphin submarines – to protect other Group members
  1. Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia make a joint statement that they will coordinate as needed diplomatically and militarily to ensure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. They would identify their red lines – which would likely be more stringent than the conditions set by the global powers.
  1. Egypt and Israel announce a joint operation that aims to eliminate ISIS from the Sinai
  1. Israel and Saudi Arabia announce a joint initiative in Yemen or Syria where the two countries have shared interests
  1. When Iranian client organizations – including Hamas and Hezbollah – respond to the establishment of a group like this, Israel will defend itself militarily as needed on its own – but it will gain public support from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. If Egypt or Saudi Arabia are targeted by Iran or Iranian clients, Israel will provide military and diplomatic support requested by group members
  1. Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia open the door to include other countries in the region – Jordan for instance.

It is not hard to argue that the US and other global powers are directly responsible for the instability and the violence we see in the Middle East today. They have no moral right to make agreements that impact the lives of millions.

Ever since Sykes-Pico, global powers have been carving up and deciding the fate of the Middle East. Working together, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are in a position to challenge the right and the ability of global powers to impost their interests on the people of the Middle East.

Regional leaders in Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia have the moral right and an obligation to take steps that will make their citizens and the region as a whole more secure. Working together, they can challenge Iran, win, and remake the Middle East based on the interests of the people who live in the region.

It’s a big geopolitical shift. It would not be easy – in part because vocal citizens in Egypt and Saudi Arabia would not want their countries to engage directly with Israel. It would take leadership and determination. But if you don’t want the US and Europe calling the shots – then you’ve got to step up and make the hard choices.

About the Author
Adam Harmon is the author of Lonely Soldier: Memoir of an American in the Israeli Army. He served with the Paratroopers and a Special Operations reserve unit for 13 years. He has provided consulting services for the US Defense and Intelligence community since 2003. And he's been a guest on numerous CNN, Fox, and NPR programs - sharing his insights regarding the Arab-Israel conflict. His forthcoming book - Unstoppable: Making Success Inevitable By Adopting the Unique Culture of the IDF - details a revolutionary approach to building and leading organizations that is based in part on the IDF and the best practices he experienced working at leading global corporations.
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