Ex-President Barack H. Obama believed that his nuclear deal with Iran would alter its drive for regional hegemony. Obama even stated that Saudi Arabia would have to find a way to “share” the Middle East with Iran. Recent history has dramatically shown that nothing could be farther from the truth. Even in this age of “fake news”, the truth of the failure of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) to alter Iran’s regional behavior has been established beyond a shadow of doubt.
So why are ex-Obama foreign policy officials cooperating with the EU to torpedo the new Trump strategy to abandon the JCPOA and re-establish a new series of sanctions? Why can’t the US Democratic Party admit that on the question of the adequacy of the JCPOA, Obama had made a terrible mistake about both the regional role of Iran and the future of nuclear weapons in the Middle East?
In America, politics have become so partisan that the truth of a situation, even the glaring truth, is not as important as the perception of which party appears victorious, Democrats or Republicans. If Trump is pro-Saudi, then the Democratic Party will advocate against a close relationship with Riyadh. If Trump moves the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, then the US Democratic Party will declare this move as a huge mistake. If the JCPOA was correctly labeled, by Republicans, as as a ten-year stepping stone to an Iranian nuclear breakout, the US Democratic Party will simply deny the assertion and cling to the belief that such a scenario can be avoided once the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to “integrate” into the global economy.
But Iran is not integrating into a moderate regime absent its ideological essence of militant political Islam; and Tehran’s conviction, that it alone should become the sole leader of the Muslim world. On the contrary, instead of moderation, Iran wants to become the nation that liberates Palestine from the Jews and defeats Saudi Arabia, hence becoming the custodians of all of Islam’s holy cities, Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. In other words, the JCPOA was deeply flawed from the beginning because the Obama administration completely misunderstood the theological nature of the Iranian regime with its hegemonic design on the Middle East.
However, the entire liberal foreign policy establishment, in both Washington and the EU, have become so enraged with the Trump’s personal behavior — his narcissistic bravado and his outrageous demeaning tweets — that they simply can’t see “the forest for the trees” on the nature of the Iranian regime. If Trump knows one thing, it’s a bad deal when he sees one. And the JCPOA remains a very bad deal. But the US Democratic Party just doesn’t see the glaring inadequacies inherent in the JCPOA — its sunset clauses, its research flaws, its lack of missile limitations, its loose enforcement protocol, its future enrichment structure, the absence of a regional dynamic and (most importantly) a complete understanding of Iran’s past work on a nuclear bomb-making capacity.
Still, the US Democratic Party remains committed to the JCPOA. Can this mean that the party has become so anti-Trump, that they have now become pro-Iran? And won’t such a stance open themselves up to a strong opposition attack? And if the Democrats are perceived as pro-Iran, doesn’t that automatically mean that they will also be perceived as essentially anti-Israel, as well? After all, how could Israel ever be expected to “share” the Middle East with a regime hell-bent on its very destruction?
For Trump’s new policy to work, he needs (at a minimum) both the Europeans and the US Democratic Party on his side. But that cannot happen without an alternative to the JCPOA. What is needed is a more far-reaching strategy other than only a sanction regime aimed solely at Iranian capitulation. What is needed are global, universal sanctions and a plan for the region that can capture the support of the entire international community, including the large portion of the Iranian population that is pro-American and against their own Islamic government. Israel and Saudi Arabia have about a year to make this alternative plan happen. It’s either an alternative to the JCPOA, or for Jerusalem and Riyadh to hope for a Trump reelection in 2020 — a prospect becoming more far-fetched with each passing day.
International support and cooperation on the Middle East are needed badly. Recently I wrote a commentary on the question of the future of the JCPOA. It read: “The failure of the neo-liberal global system — that is, it’s gross inequality — has created a US voter backlash against American foreign security guarantees. The vacuum ensued within the Middle East geopolitical system has meant that US policy under Trump can only use economic clout to achieve a more robust strategic regime with regard to Iran. But in order to get a more enhanced nuclear deal within a non-hegemonic regional order will require a global economic commitment between Washington, its allies and its Russian and Chinese adversaries. Trump does not have the global capital to achieve such a deal. In fact, the entire edifice of the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) has now become unmoored due to the slow decline of American uni-polarity.
“From a Middle East point of view the JCPOA was nothing more than a weak and temporary stopgap. It was designed by the Obama administration in order to “kick the can down the road”, so that, some other American president would have to deal with the problem. But the current American policy (Trump) with regard to the NPT and the JCPOA cannot be achieved in isolation or within a vacuum of international security cooperation. Trump’s “America First” will only engender “Russia First”, “China First” and perhaps “Germany and/or “Japan First”. Such international chaos can only mean the expansion of nuclear power. The hope of the NPT, as envisioned during an era of secure deterrence with strategic negotiation, is not the era of today. Now, with Iranian encroachment into the orbit of Israel and the Sunni Arab states, it is not inconceivable to view Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt as potential nuclear states. Turkey, of course, would probably go the same way. Can such an environment breed a secure deterrent structure? The answer is an unequivocal NO!
“But a return in 2021 (with a Democratic Party presidential victory) to a weak JCPOA, without a prohibition on regional hegemony or the curtailment of both offensive and defensive missile technology, would swiftly become a nuclear-nightmare scenario. First strike nuclear capacity was always a concern during the Cold War (at least until the ABM Treaty) and would be a disaster in the Middle East. It is up to the new Global-4 — China, India, Russia and the US — to work with Israel and the Sunni Arab states on a structure of regional peace which excludes nuclear weapons. Within this context, Iran would be asked to join (an anti-hegemonic, nuclear free zone). It is also time for the Global-4 to work out their problems with each other, so that they can begin to lead the world toward a structure of peace.”
As the time to the next US election approaches, the Democratic Party and its presidential candidates will be increasingly challenged to explain their policy with relation to Iran and Israel. They simply can’t afford to merely rehash the highly suspect JCPOA. But Israel and Saudi Arabia would be playing a fool’s game to bet on the defeat of the Democrats and the reelection of Donald Trump.
What is needed in the Middle East is a dramatic and public display of Israeli, Saudi, Egyptian, and Jordanian cooperation on a regional alternative to the JCPOA. A Sadat-type move in the direction of either Jerusalem or Riyadh would be a great basis for the beginnings of a non-hegemonic, nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. This idea of a “Zone of Peace” has been published many times before. This Zone of Peace would prohibit war and nuclear weapons. It would be firmly backed by all the world’s great powers, but would be absent the permanent stationing of any outside-the-region foreign military entities.
The Time for Israel and its potential Sunni Arab partners to act is ASAP! Because to avoid a nuclear Middle East, the JCPOA is precisely the wrong vehicle. And time, along with American politics, are driving the nuclear clock precariously forward. Be warned: Time is getting very short, alternative diplomatic action is required!