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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/3/19

Preventing an Israeli-Iran War

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From American Diplomacy

The EU is in a unique position to prevent the outbreak of a war between Israel and Iran that could engulf the Middle East in a war that no one can win.

ISRAEL VS IRAN Military Power Comparison
ISRAEL VS IRAN Military Power Comparison
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Accusing Iran of being a rogue country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting extremist groups and terrorism, persistently threatening Israel, and destabilizing the region in its relentless effort to become the dominant power may well all be justified. The question is, what would it take to stop Iran from its destabilizing activities and help make it a constructive member of the international community, and avoid military confrontation with either the US or Israel or both? The answer is not regime change, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and top American officials advocate, but a diplomatic solution. The EU, led by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom who continue to adhere to the JCPOA should initiate a behind-the-scenes dialogue and pave the way for US involvement in a negotiating process with Iran to find a peaceful solution and prevent a catastrophic military confrontation.

Evaluating US-Iran historic relations

The toppling of the democratically-elected Mosaddeq government in 1953 and the installing of the corrupt Shah as king of the country, coupled with the US' treatment of Iran since the 1979 revolution, constitute a series of errors in judgment of successive American administrations over the past 40 years.

In the wake of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iran's President Rafsanjani made several attempts to improve relations with the US. He offered the American oil company Conoco a contract to develop one of Iran's largest oil fields, but a deal was blocked by the US. Also, efforts made by moderates within the Shiite regime searching for common ground with the US after September 11 were rebuffed by the US, even though Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, known to be a reformer, was in power.

In 2002, President Bush shut down what was left of any opening with Iran by characterizing it, along with Iraq and North Korea, as the "axis of evil," accusing them of being allied with terrorists "arming to threaten the peace of the world."[i] Thus, instead of exploiting any opening to initiate a new dialogue, successive American administrations remained focused on containing Iran and never precluded the use of force to that end. Naturally, this played into the hands of radical Iranian officials, who viewed the US as the "Great Satan," bent on undermining the regime and not to be trusted.

Feeling rejected and threatened by the US, Tehran decided to take advantage of the fragile American strategy to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace by supporting several Palestinian radical groups opposed to Israel's existence. Fear of an American invasion, especially following the Iraq War, Iran's historic rivalry against Saudi Arabia, and its concerns over Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons further strengthened its resolve to become the region's "superpower." Tehran decided to pursue a weaponized nuclear program to prevent an American invasion and neutralize Israel's nuclear arsenal.

Iran took full advantage of the Iraq War, which gave Iraq to Iran on a silver platter, and moved strategically to entrench itself in the predominantly Shiite country. It came quickly to the rescue of Assad's regime in Syria with the intention of establishing a permanent presence and securing a corridor that links it to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where it has already cemented its presence through Hezbollah.

Furthermore, Iran interjected itself into the civil war in Yemen by providing financial aid and arms to the Shiite-leaning Houthis with the intention of establishing a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula. All along, Iran vigorously pursued the development of ballistic missiles while providing Islamic jihadists and terror groups throughout the Middle East with training and military materials.

To be sure, Tehran had every incentive not only to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but to impede and frustrate America's overall Middle East policy, which further reaffirmed the US' belief that Iran is a regional menace that must be dealt with accordingly.

Unlike his predecessors, President Obama was determined to change the dynamic of the conflict with Iran by moving from confrontation to negotiation. Obama concluded that waging a war against Iran would at best set its effort to acquire nuclear weapons back for only two to three years, but would likely precipitate a disastrous regional war. Even though Iran could potentially suffer tremendous losses and destruction of its nuclear facilities, it would recover and become even more determined to resume its nuclear weapons program.

Consequently, Obama decided to defuse the tension with Iran by first focusing on preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons, which was the most disconcerting issue for US and its allies in the region, especially Israel. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was also seen as a prerequisite to improve relations and nurture trust, as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in Brussels: "the deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties""[ii]

The idea was to create an atmosphere conducive to reducing tensions by gradually lifting the sanctions parallel to Iran's compliance with all the provisions of the deal. This would have allowed the nurturing of trust and opened the door for negotiations to settle other conflicting issues. After two years of intense negotiations, the JCPOA was struck with the full support of the UNSC permanent members plus Germany, as well as the EU, which Israel vehemently opposed and rallied against.

Convinced of Iran's mischiefs and eager to fulfill his campaign promise, Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and re-imposed severe sanctions on Iran, deeply disturbing European allies and heightening anew tensions with Iran, making the US a part of the problem not of the solution which brings us to the present impasse.

Considering the psychological and emotional dispositions

The search for a lasting solution must factor in the psychological, emotional, and political disposition and national interests of the main players, namely Iran, Israel, and the US.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. His dedication to writing about, analyzing, and (more...)

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