Category: Middle East

Iran: Rouhani’s election

Iran’s Guardian Council confirmed the reelection of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani on 30 May. Elections were held on 10 May, with Rouhani receiving 57% of the vote, beating the conservative Ebrahim Raisi – the ayatollah’s pick – who received 38.5%. The contentious campaign period, which included extraordinary remarks by Rouhani as well as criticism by Ayatollah Khamenei, indicate that ultra-conservative factions remain strongly opposed to Rouhani’s reelection, as well as the policies he presents, the most important of which is the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Hardliners called for an investigation following the polls, citing alleged voting irregularities, however, this tactic is now moot following the Guardian Council decision on 30 May. Despite Rouhani’s popular mandate, it is unclear whether the 2nd term win will allow greater room for manoeuvre and reform: ultra-conservative elements are expected to significantly increase their opposition to Ruhani and his reform policies. Powerful factional rivalries are emerging as groups seek placement ahead of succession negotiations which will follow the death of ailing Supreme Leader Ali  Khamenei, now 77. The electoral win marks an important yet incipient step in the internal balance of power against hardline influence within the state, and society at large. However, structural factors, namely the entrenched power of the revolutionary elite, including the subjection of policy changes to the Supreme Leader for approval, who takes into consideration the vested interests of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), will limit Rouhani’s freedom of movement in actualising much-needed reform. Thorough economic and political patronage networks underpin the regime, the most powerful organs of which include the office of the Supreme Leader, the executive council and the IRGC, whose business interests control an estimated 30% of the overall economy. Rouhani essentially owes his position to this regime; however, his apparent liberal bent is a hedged bet on the long-term outlook for the country, which includes a gradual opening up of Iranian society.  The IRGC fear that liberalisation and foreign investments will threaten their vested commercial and political interests, built out of and in the isolation of the post-1979 Islamic Republic. Rouhani will retain considerable political influence in the meantime, due to his centrist coalition’s majority in parliament, and is expected to primarily pursue economic liberalisation as a means to leverage political and social reforms, supported by a grassroots majority that indicated in the recent polls that the revolutionary era has outlived its usefulness. This ground level change rooted in Iran’s youthful demography threatens the revolutionary-conservative consensus but is also driving a gradual liberalisation of the political sphere, as evidenced by the comprehensive victory of reformist candidates during city council elections, including in Tehran and in Mashhad – Raisi’s hometown. In the long run, the IRGC is expected to retain the upper hand due to its increasing institutional penetration, allied with hardline conservative factions. Furthermore, the election of Donald Trump, along with inflammatory remarks against the Islamic Republic will give the hardliners the ammunition needed to take aim at Rouhani, and the nuclear deal which promised greater economic rewards through the lifting of investment barring sanctions, in exchange for limitations on Iran’s nuclear program – rewards which have thus far been disappointing. The IRGC have returned Trump’s bellicose remarks by engaging in provocative actions in recent months. This includes both ballistic missile tests which violate UN resolutions, and the harassment of maritime vessels in the Persian Gulf. These actions compromise the detente with the West advocated by Rouhani, which may undermine the president and his reform agenda.

A quick talk with Joel Wing @ MusingsOnIraq

What are Sunni – Shia relations in the country like today?

Relations between the sects in Iraq are complicated as ever. The Sunni community has suffered from deep divisions ever since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The Sunni provincial politicians are largely siding with the Shiite led government in Baghdad because they are on the frontline against the Islamic State. The main Sunni party Mutahidun in Baghdad is unwilling to compromise with the Shiite coalition the National Alliance on things like the National Guard bill even though it would help their constituency. The tribes are all over the place. Some have sided with the Islamic State, some are with Baghdad, and some are sitting on the fence. On the Shiite side there is a lot of suspicion about Sunnis being IS sympathizers. Populations in cities like Mosul have been written off, and the huge number of displaced from places like Anbar are seen as potential threats as well. Ironically, what the two communities have in common is that they both feel like they are victims. The difference is that they blame each other for their plight.

What is the extent of U.S. involvement in Iraq today?

The U.S. has a number of different programs going on in Iraq. Besides the much publicized air strikes it also has a training program going on which is focused upon both the Iraqi Security Forces and some tribal fighters in Anbar. It also has joint command centers to help strategize against the Islamic State. Finally, Washington is providing military material like anti-tank missiles, fighter jets, etc. There is talk that it might increase its involvement with more targeted raids as well. There is a lot of criticism of the U.S. commitment, but it is in line with the Obama administration’s plan to contain the insurgency.

What role does Iran play in the country?

Iran is doing a lot for Iraq. Its pilots are flying Iraqi attack jets, it’s provided a huge amount of equipment from rockets to tanks to guns and ammunition. It has deployed frontline advisers and has its own joint command center with the Iraqi forces. It is funding the pro-Tehran Hashd groups. When the Islamic State first took Mosul Iran offered Baghdad a blank check because Iraq was an ally and the militants were a threat to Tehran as well. At the same time, Iran is trying to copy its Syrian policy in Iraq, which is based upon building up its allied forces in the Hashd which are loosely connected to the state, dominate strategy, and promote itself as the protector of the Shiite. They have been very successful so far as seen by the ubiquitous presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Commander Gen. Suleimani at major battles and in social media.

Children_In_iraq-iran_war4

How representative of all major groups is the government in Baghdad today?

Every government in Iraq since 2003 has been a national unity one, meaning every party that wins a seat in parliament is given a position in the administration. This is codified in an ethnosectarian quota system that dolls out all the top spots to the various communities and political parties. That’s a huge source of weakness as parties that both support and oppose the government are all in office leading to general deadlock on most major issues.

  is the author of the excellent Musings On Iraq (http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.co.uk/) which was started in 2008 to explain the political, economic, security and cultural situation in Iraq via original articles and interviews. He has written for the Jamestown Foundation, Tom Ricks’ Best Defense at Foreign Policy and the Daily Beast, and was responsible for a chapter in the book Volatile Landscape: Iraq And Its Insurgent Movements. His work has been published in Iraq via AK News, Al-Mada, Sotaliraq, All Iraq News, and Ur News. He was interviewed on CCTV, and have appeared in CNN, the Christian Science Monitor, The National, Columbia Journalism Review, Mother Jones, PBS’ Frontline, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Institute for the Study of War, Radio Free Iraq, and others and has also been cited in Iraq From war To A New Authoritarianism by Toby Dodge, Imagining the Nation Nationalism, Sectarianism and Socio-Political Conflict in Iraq by Harith al-Qarawee, ISIS Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassahn, The Rise of the Islamic State by Patrick Cocburn, and others.

Elections in Egypt

“We don’t know anything about these candidates so I’m not going to give my vote to someone who doesn’t deserve it”,  19 year old Michael Bassili from Alexandria.

Egypt has just completed its first round of parliamentary elections since the main chamber was dissolved in 2012. Voter turnout was expectedly low, with one newspaper calling it an “election without voters”, reflecting a lack of confidence in the new electoral system. Young voters who make up the majority of Egypt’s population were largely absent. This may be a challenge for President Sisi who has been counting on a strong turnout to legitimize the push for reforms needed to stabilize both the political sphere and the economy in order to attract new investments and reduce dependence on financial aid from Gulf states.

Musicians_and_dancers_on_fresco_at_Tomb_of_Nebamun

The past 4 years have been a period of political turmoil as many of the gains following the 2011 ousting of former president Mubarak have been reversed via legal and military means. Mubarak’s resignation was followed by the country’s first democratic elections leading to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader Muhammed Morsi becoming president in June 2012. In the same month the Supreme Constitutional Court declared the then electoral laws unconstitutional and ordered the dissolution of parliament then dominated by the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party. Protests followed against Morsi’s ‘Islamist’ policies resulting in military intervention and the arrest of the president in July 2013. An interim presidency under Adly Mansour followed; a new constitution was approved in Jan 2014; and presidential elections held which saw General Sisi swapping his uniform for a suit, winning 96% of the vote.

The first round of parliamentary elections were held on October 18-19 in 14 of Egypt’s 27 governorates. Round two is scheduled for November 22-23 in the rest of the country including Cairo and the troubled Sinai peninsula. The new parliamentary law of 2014 establishes a mixed electoral system and increases the number of representatives to 596. Of these seats, 20% are for candidates from party-lists, 5% appointed by the president, and 75% for individual candidates – meant to minimise the strength of opposition blocs in the new parliament according to critics. “There are very few fierce regime critics who are participating in the electoral process and so clearly they have managed this election in such a way that is not going to be a representative parliament with a fully empowered opposition that is seeking to challenge the government.” said Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

‘For the Love of Egypt’, a pro-government coalition of loyalist parties, politicians and wealthy businessmen and coordinated by former intelligence officer Sameh Seif El-Yazal, won all 60 seats allocated for party-based lists in the first round.  Al Nour, having lost much support after endorsing Morsi’s overthrow, failed to win seats in the initial poll but gained 10 seats in the run -off.  273 candidates have secured seats in the upcoming parliament thus far.

Critics of the new electoral laws call it a “selective process of elite reconfiguration” – a way of maximising the probability of a desired outcome i.e. no ‘Islamists’ or powerful regime opposition groupings. Support for Sisi is generally rooted in the entrenched role of the military in Egyptian society, and the fact that security concerns have produced “a reactionary movement…quieting the impulse for change”. The new parliament is widely seen as unlikely to challenge the executive and is expected to endorse decrees made by Sisi since he assumed power, including a number of draconian measures meant to deal with security threats affecting the country, from the insurgency in the Sinai province to disruptions caused by regular street demonstrations by the MB and other opposition figures.

Peak Oil? A conversation with Dr. Duncan Clarke

This was Dr. Duncan Clarke speaking to me in 2012. At the time, oil prices were around $90 a barrel and Peak Oil was trending. I read a couple of books on the subject and thought the world was coming to an end, so decided to get a second opinion from a South African expert in the oil and gas industry.

Hello Dr Clarke

Q#1.The Ideas of the Peak Oil advocates have gained widespread support and acceptance over the last decade. Peakists maintain that global oil production has, is, or will soon “peak”, thereafter beginning a precipitous decline with grim consequences for “hydrocarbon man”. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Clarke: It has not happened, and will not. In reality the peak oil syndrome has lost traction increasingly over the last few years as it has become further unhinged from reality following new oil discoveries in the pre-salt, the opening of many frontiers of high potential, as technologies have advanced (as they will always), following inter-fuel substitution, the developments in shale oil/gas, and while capacity has increased in several key domains (Iraq just one, Saudi Arabia another, United States, Brasil also). With the advent of the climatology fixation and the mandates in favour of non-hydrocarbon fuels imposed by Governments (typically with subsidies) on large parts of the energy world, so the prospect of “peak demand” looms larger, although as one Chevron senior executive remarked: “when you can tell me we have reached “peak technology” then maybe we can consider peak oil”. Inside the world oil industry peak oil concepts have little respect, and this from the largest collection of cutting-edge geologists on the planet.

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Iran, Israel, and the United States

Throughout the Cold War, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to name but a few, had a common geographic and ideological enemy; the Soviet Union. Iran still remembered the terrible Russian occupation in the north of their country during the Second World War and after, and became one of the three points in the United States ‘security triangle’ in the Middle East during the Cold War, that is, until 1979. The other two points of the ‘security triangle’ were Israel and Saudi Arabia. The United States committed a great amount of military and financial support to Iran during this period as a geographic buffer against the Soviet Union as well as to turn Iran into a regional power to balance neighbouring Middle Eastern countries with ties to the Soviet Union.

This relationship with the United States suited the Israeli’s security interests well; the security doctrine at the time entailed partnerships with non-Arab periphery states to ‘balance’ Israel’s hostile neighbours. Relations with Iran, one of the most powerful Gulf States was a crucial Israeli concern and led to intense behind-the-scenes contacts and dealings between the two states

Trita Parsi writes that Israel’s alliance with the United States did not resolve its security dilemma. “Israel was a lone state for Jews in a sea of hostile Arab states, some of which were developing closer ties to the Soviet Union. Since breaking the circle of Arab enmity appeared impossible, Israel put its faith in reaching out to the non-Arab states of the region, including Iran. This outlook gave birth to Ben-Gurion’s doctrine of the periphery, a foreign policy concept that came to dominate Israeli strategic thinking till the end of the Cold War. The doctrine held that the improbability of achieving peace with the surrounding Arab states forced Israel to build alliances with the non-Arab states of the periphery-primarily Iran, Turkey, and Ethiopia-as well as with the non-Arab minorities such as the Kurds and the Lebanese Christians. This network of alliances would drive a wedge between Israel’s enemies, weaken the Arab bloc, and halt the spread of pan-Arabism in the region, the reasoning went[1]”.

The Peripheral Alliance Doctrine entailed strong relations with Iran. In 1979, the Islamic Revolution put Ayatollah Khomeini in power. The change in leadership, however, did not change the geostrategic realities facing the country. Iran still had to contend with the Soviet Union to its north, a Soviet (and later American) backed Iraq to its west and strongly anti-Shia Afghanistan to its east. Iran’s security dilemma was worsened when the United States broke off relations with the country after the Islamic Revolution. This strategic isolation of Iran meant that stronger relations with Israel were needed. Besides the fiery-rhetoric coming from the new regime, Ayatollah Khomeini resumed a pragmatic relationship with the Israeli’s, primarily through their intelligence agencies, Savak and Mossad. A special runway was built far from Tehran’s air terminal for Israeli’s in order to ‘hide’ the true number of Israeli’s coming into the country on a regular basis. An Iranian foreign policy expert explained that “the ideological opposition to Israel played a role before the revolution” and that once the revolutionary government assumed power and was forced to confront the strategic realities it faced, implemented a foreign policy that implied “rhetorical opposition to Israel but practical collaboration…with the Jewish State[2]”

“Out of Iran’s strategic dilemma, with ideological and strategic forces pulling its foreign policy in different directions, emerged a multilayered strategy that continues to bewilder political analysts and foreign leaders alike. Instead of opting to balance the Arabs by aligning with Israel, or to seek accommodation with the Arabs by taking the lead against Israel, Tehran chose to do both by differentiating between its operational policy and its rhetoric. On the other hand, Iran collaborated secretly with Israel on security matters, and, on the other, it took its rhetorical excesses against Israel to even higher levels to cover up its Israeli dealings”[3].

During this time, Ayatollah Khomeini likened Israel to a ‘cancerous tumour that needed to be removed from the region’ yet continued to seek closer relations with Israel, even more so when Iraq invaded Iran. A few days after the start of the Iraq-Iran war, an Israeli deputy defence minister held a press conference urging the U.S. to put the past behind it and help Iran rebuild its defences[4]. The reasoning was that a victorious Iraq would emerge as a severe threat to Israel without having the Iranian’s as a ‘balancer’. Israel feared an “Eastern Front “assault by hostile ‘Arab’ countries led by Iraq, this stresses the importance the country placed on good relations with Iran.

Iran needed Israel for armaments; sitting with tons of U.S. built military equipment owing to the close U.S. relationship with the Shah, the new Iranian regime found it could not maintain it’s military because of the U.S. arms embargo against them. Israel offered to help, and violating the U.S. arms embargo, supplied the Iranians with tires for their Phantom Jets as well as other weapons[5]. Iran’s only other source of spare parts was from Vietnam, military hardware left behind when the U.S. pulled out of the country. In 1982, Defence Minister Ariel Sharon appeared on NBC and boasted about Israel’s arms sales to Iran, explaining that it was important to “leave a small window open” to the possibility of good relations with Iran in the future[6].

Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister from 1974 to 1977 and then again from 1992 to 1995, even went so far as to tell a press conference in 1987 that, “Iran is Israel’s best friend, and we do not intend to change our position in relation to Tehran, because Khomeini’s regime will not last forever[7]”. Trita Parsi writes that, “after Khomeini’s death in June 1989, Israel again emphasized that due to the common threat from the Arabs, particularly Iraq, and Israeli-Iranian alliance was “natural[8]”.

The change in Israeli policy towards Iran followed the change in the international security environment after 1991. With the collapse of the USSR, the threat of Soviet penetration of the Middle East ended, and so did Soviet military support. After the American subjugation of Iraq during and after the first Gulf War, Iraq’s influence in the region diminished significantly; with UN imposed economic sanctions and U.S. military ‘containment’ of the country, Iraq no longer posed as a military threat to Israel, or to Iran. Thus the glue that had maintained the Iran-Israel security relationship for three decades had melted away, and now the two states found themselves facing a new reality; competitive regional influence.

Paradigm shift

With Israel’s regional foe’s greatly weakened or lacking traditional support (such as the Soviet-Syrian relationship), Israel under Peres and Rabin shifted gear and started to talk of their former “natural ally” as “an existential threat”. Iran had by this time been negatively affected by the Iran-Iraq War and by the effects of more than a decade of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Israel saw this as an opportunity to induce the U.S. to pursue harsher policies towards Iran as part of a strategy to weaken the regime further.

By 1992, Israel was declaring that Iran was the “greatest threat” to the region[9]. Iran in turn decided that the shift in relations with the U.S. was due to Israeli meddling as part of a campaign to isolate Iran[10]. This led to a massive increase in ‘existential’ support for Israel’s smaller foes such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO. ‘Existential’, because until this time, Iran’s main contribution had been rhetoric. This changed to actual political, financial and military support in the early nineties. One would be forgiven for thinking this development followed the change in leadership in Iran, with the coming to power of Supreme Leader Ali Khameini in June 1989, and thus a change in thinking, yet the actual reasons were the changing geostrategic dynamics in the Middle East following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War.

Interestingly, Dr Parsi explains that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not in Iran’s strategic interests; he explains that “eager to rebuild its economy and regain its position as the gendarme of the Persian Gulf, Iran feared that a successful Oslo process, and Peres’ portrayal of Iran as a threat to the Arab world, would result in Iran’s permanent isolation and pariah status. Ever since the time of the Shah, the Iranian’s have feared that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could enable the Arabs to turn their energy and focus towards their unresolved disagreements with Iran”.

Tom Hull writes that the ‘rivalry between Iran and its Arab neighbors, reinforced by language, culture, and the Sunni-Shia religious divide[11]’ did not diminish with the advent of the Islamic Revolution. Rather, Iran, in an attempt to garner support from its Middle Eastern neighbours, plays the anti-Israeli card to help ‘overcome the Persian-Arab and Shiite-Sunni divide’. This is part of a two-pronged strategy employed by Iran; on the one hand portraying itself as the defender of Islam in an attempt to gather support from Middle Eastern populations and secondly by ‘sabotaging US policies in the region’, such as providing technical assistance to Iraqi Shia and Hezbollah, Iran hopes to ‘put an end to American efforts to build an Israel-centric Middle East order based on Iran’s prolonged isolation[12]’.

Former CIA agent and author Robert Baer notes that the three most popular political figures amongst the Muslim’s of the Middle East are all Shia; Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, and third, Iranian president Ahmedenijad[13]. Though this statement can be contested, there is little doubt that Nasrullah and Ahmedenijad enjoy favourable standing throughout the region. This not surprising considering the PR campaign undertaken by Iran in its ‘battle with the little Satan (Israel)’. Parsi writes that “Ahmadinejad’s highly ideological broadsides against Israel have come to have a strategic purpose. Playing the anti-Israeli card helps Iran overcome the Persian-Arab and Shiite-Sunni divide, Tehran reasons. Harsh rhetoric against Israel goes down well with the Arab street, increasing tensions between Arab governments and their publics, which in turn prevents the Arabs from signing up with Tel Aviv against Tehran”.

Iran’s policy appears to entail compelling ‘Washington to recognize Iran’s weight and role in the region by attaching a cost to Washington’s unwillingness to accommodate Iran’ such as sabotaging U.S. polices in the region. American security in Iraq depends upon Iran. Towards the end of 2007, the number of roadside bombs, including Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s), dropped substantially. The U.S. State Department’s top official on Iraq, David Satterefield attributed the drop to Iranian policy decision, saying that Iran has decided “at the most senior level’s” to restrain Shi’ite militants operations. U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates elaborated on Iran’s influence in Iraq at the 5th IISS Regional Security Summit in Bahrain on December 13 this year. He noted that ‘discussion of the security situation in Iraq is complete without mentioning Iran, a country whose every move seems designed to create maximum anxiety in the international community. There is no doubt that Iran has been heavily engaged in trying to influence the development and direction of the Iraqi government, and has not been a good neighbour. Much of that effort has been on training and supplying groups intent on undermining the government, more often than not through violence and attacks on Iraqi security forces and government installations and officials. Of course, the use of sub-national actors as Iranian proxies should be no surprise, considering the financial and military support that Tehran has long given organisations such as Hamas and Hizbullah.[14]

Iraq’s government has to manage a balancing act between the strategic interests of the United States and the security concerns of Iran. Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayed writes that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ‘is torn between appeasing the United States, which brought him to power and kept him there despite all odds, since 2006, and pleasing his patrons and co-religionaries in Tehran. The Americans tell him to sign a long-term agreement between with the US, maintaining 50 permanent American military bases in Iraq. The Iranians angrily order him not to, claiming this would be a direct security threat to the region as a whole, and Iran in particular[15].’

Former CIA analyst Robert Baer considers Iran to wield enormous power throughout the region, not through hard power due to its antiquated military, but through ‘asymmetrical warfare’, “This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origins—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him[16]”.

Baer writes that, “Though Iran may not be strong in terms of the laundry list Washington uses to calculate power—tanks, guns, armor, aircraft carriers—Iran has developed a different sort of mastery in projecting power. It possesses effective military strength, in the sense that it controls popular and lethally efficient guerilla groups. And in Lebanon and Iraq it manipulates sovereign armies. Iran’s military might, through its proxies and allies, in fact vastly eclipses that of its neighbours”[17].

Israel’s security rhetoric implies that Iran is on the verge of attaining a nuclear weapon and will use ‘the bomb’ against the Jewish state once attained, based upon its current ‘policy of terrorism’ such as supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. This is inconsistent with history according to Parsi who mantains that the Iranian’s have repeatedly declared their willingness for cooperation, their goal being re-integration into the Middle Eastern security architecture, as opposed to being politically isolated and ‘contained’ by U.S. forces to its East and West. In 2003, Iran attempted to negotiate with the United States on a range of matters pertaining to both parties. The document, sent to U.S. authorities through Swiss intermediaries, lists Iran’s aims as a ‘halt in US hostile behaviour and rectification of status of Iran in the US’, such as removing Iran from the ‘axis of evil’ list, the ‘abolishment of all sanctions’, a respect for Iranian interests in Iraq, ‘full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology’, ‘recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region’, and for the pursuit of ‘anti-Iranian terrorist’ in Iraq, ‘above all’ the MKO.

Iran then stated that in return for the respect of these Iranian concerns, U.S. concerns about Iran would be addressed. Iran guaranteed full transparency regarding its nuclear technology and that ‘there are no Iranian endeavours to develop or possess WMD’; that Iran would root out any terrorists on Iranian territory; in Iraq, ‘the coordination of Iranian influence for activity supporting political stability’ and ‘non-religious government’ as well as the halt of ‘material support to Palestinian opposition groups’; turn Hezbollah into ‘ a mere political organization within Lebanon’ and to accept the Arab League Beirut declaration ( a two-state solution for Palestine)[18].

The proposal was rejected by the Bush Administration, Dick Cheney was quoted as saying ‘we don’t talk to evil’. Robert Baer considers Iranian attempts at acquiring nuclear weapons to be real, but not in the immediate future. If we take Israel’s concerns about Iranian WMD seriously, then the following interview with Dr Parsi is particularly revealing;

Q. ‘What is Israel’s internal security assessment about whether they feel that Iran is likely to use a nuclear weapon against them?

A. ‘I don’t think the Israeli’s fear primarily that Iran will actually use a nuclear weapon. The fear is that if Iran gets that capability, and manages to negotiate a deal with the United States in which the US starts to treat Iran as a legitimate player in the region, the balance of power in the region would tilt so much against Israel that Israel would lose much of the manoeuvrability that it currently is enjoying, including the ability to for instance, impose unilateral peace deals on the Palestinians. That’s the fear from the Israeli’s side; that there would be a new balance in which Israel would lose this significant benefit it has had since the end of the Cold War in which there was only one superpower[19]’.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh explained that “if indeed the U.S. adopts a conciliatory approach to Iran…the implications are that we will need to face this threat alone[20]”.

Parsi notes that ‘Israel is seen as a major obstacle in initiating a U.S.-Iran dialogue and has played a critical role in putting Iran’s nuclear program atop the international agenda’. He outlines a policy of re-engaging Iran within the security system of the Middle East to put an end to the conflict, he writes,

‘The key to eliminating the danger Iran could pose to Israel lies in arranging these two forces of Iranian foreign policy—strategic interest and ideology—to counter each other once again. Threats of war and sanctions cannot achieve this end. Only through a larger accommodation—Iranian political rehabilitation in the region in return for an end to destructive Iranian behavior—will Iran let go of its open hostility toward the Jewish state. Brought in from the cold, Tehran’s cost-benefit analysis would change dramatically. The Islamic Republic would be careful not to undermine its own geopolitical status with ideology-driven anti-Israeli and anti-American behaviour.’ In other words, Isreal is the key to the affair; its perceived security in relation to the Arab states mean that it does not need Iran as a counter-balancing ally.

“Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US” has been awarded the silver medal in the Council on Foreign Relations’ prestigious Arthur Ross Book Award.

Footnotes: [1] Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, 2007, page 22 [2] Ibid, pg 95-96 [3] Ibid, pg 95-96 [4] Ibid [5] Treacherous Alliance, pg 95 [6] http://www.tritaparsi.com/2005_04_unveiling_iran.pdf, pg 49 [7] Reese Erlich, The Iran Agenda, 2007, page 37 [8] Trita Parsi, http://www.tritaparsi.com/2005_04_unveiling_iran.pdf, pg 49 [9] S.Peres, Iran greatest threat to peace in the Middle East, Reuters, October 25, 1992. [10] http://www.tritaparsi.com/2005_04_unveiling_iran.pdf, pg 50 [11] [12] http://www.tritaparsi.com/2005_04_unveiling_iran.pdf [13] Interview Hardtalk, July 2008 [14] http://www.iiss.org/conferences/the-iiss-regional-security-summit/manama-dialogue-2008/plenary-sessions-and-speeches/first-plenary-session/first-plenary-session-dr-robert-gates/>http://www.iiss.org/conferences/the-iiss-regional-security-summit/manama-dialogue-2008/plenary-sessions-and-speeches/first-plenary-session/first-plenary-session-dr-robert-gates/ [15] Sami Moubayed, Iraq takes a turn towards Iran, < a href=http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JF17Ak04.html>http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JF17Ak04.html [16] http://www.jhuapl.edu/urw_symposium/, John F Kennedy, USMA graduation speech, 1962 [17] http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=20092, Baer, Iranian Resurrection, 2008 [18] Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance, 2007, appendix A, page 342 [19] Interview with Daljit Dhaliwal, episode 423, Foreign Exchange, 2008 [20] Treacherous Alliance , pg 224