I want to examine four overlooked factors.
1. Often, if not always, people come up with solutions without asking themselves what the problem is. In the case of the Iranian bomb, acquisition of a bomb is not the problem. It is the exemplification of Iranian intransigence, and the threat that this brings to the whole area.
The Iranian intransigence is an expression of the never-ending tussle between the major two sects of the Islamic creed. Getting the bomb means that this fight has escalated. By agreeing to let Iran get the bomb in 10 years is an open invitation to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to get one before. When they do so, they will jeopardise the agreement with Iran. In this respect, they will place Iran in peril. It is impossible to imagine Iran will agree that its neighbours will have a bomb before them. The Iranians will abrogate the treaty and have ample justification to do so.
2. Whenever we look at the map of the Middle East, we see Iran as the easternmost part of the area. In some respects, it’s true, but it is also highly irrelevant. There always has been the tussle between the Arabian Islam and non-Arabian Islam. There is a struggle between Shia and Sunni. Saudi Arabia will turn to its Sunni co-religionists, Pakistan. If we shift our view eastwards to include Pakistan, we get quite a surprise. Pakistan and Iran have a common border; they have already experienced border skirmishes. If anybody is likely to fight Iran, it is Pakistan.
By giving Iran the bomb, we have guaranteed that Pakistan will get dragged in. Pakistan will inevitably supply Saudi Arabia. In doing so, in all probabilities Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will set up in a military alliance. The Saudi-Pakistani cooperation will significantly increase the tension between Pakistan and Iran. Maybe we do not know when the Third World starts, but it is not inconceivable to guess where the starting point could be; it could well be the Irani-Pakistani border.
3. The best way of losing any war is to re-fight the previous battle. Israel lost the battle with the US over the agreement with Iran. The deal depends on verification. Israel is beholden to be an active partner in this audit process. It cannot be if Israel insists on being a petulant pariah and wearisomely whinging state. No one likes to be preached to, especially by somebody who eventually needs your help. The one lesson that Israel should learn is a Foreign Secretary should be functioning all the time. We cannot have part-time Foreign Secretaries nor can we go long periods without foreign secretaries even if it is politically seductively expedient. We cannot have a Foreign Secretary, who is completely unacceptable to his interlocutors. The Netanyahu foreign policy is in tatters. There is no excuse for the criminal neglect of our representation abroad. We need an accepted Foreign Secretary.
4. Obama will neither forgive nor forget what Netanyahu did to him. Obama is about to let the French make an utterly ridiculous proposal. A proposal more suicidal than any proposal made recently in Vienna. Netanyahu is obsessed with fighting Washington on a deal that we cannot change. He is doing his utmost to enlist the Labour Party. Even if he does, this will change nothing. However, when the French-led tsunami hits our political shores, Labour will capsize the coalition.
There is no way that the Labour Party would prevent the making of any agreement. Nor will she kowtow to the dictates of the extreme right. Inevitably, the government will collapse, and the issue will be the peace process. The impasse will force new elections. The peace issue will be the central issue. Netanyahu will inevitably lose. A centre-left coalition will negotiate a peace treaty dictated by Obama. It will include the Obama guidelines, including Palestinian disarmament and President Bush’s presidential letter to Sharon. These proposals are enough to guarantee a decisive electoral victory.
Paradoxically, the Vienna Accord could unthinkingly accidentally precipitate the Third World War. Netanyahu can unwittingly precipitate a successful peace process.
Could it be that the Third World War will be fought with a peaceful Israel watching on the sidelines?