The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) “has worked exactly the way we said it was going to... it’s not just the assessment of our intelligence community. It’s the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community.” – President Barack Obama “One year later, it can clearly be said that the nuclear talks reversed power relations in Iran’s favor, with the US forfeiting a historic opportunity to dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability...
Iran has been given the legitimacy to maintain, develop, and move forward along the path of uranium enrichment after the deal... the scope of the deal’s damage is wider still. It has turned Iran into a superpower... Iran is the only country that has the potential to pose a threat to the existence of Israel.” – IDF Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former Israeli national security adviser When a politician or government official assures you something in the Middle East “has worked exactly the way we said it was going to,” you should take it with a large grain of Dead Sea salt. Humility is a prerequisite for Middle East analysis; where understanding regional variables is more akin to playing five-dimensional chess, where your enemies’ enemy is just as likely to be your friend as your foe, and tomorrow, guess again.
Humility is demanded to even begin to understand the complexities of the conflicting myriad of tribal Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim interests. As Scott Anderson wrote in The New York Times Magazine, “[J]ust beneath the sectarian and regional divisions... there lay extraordinarily complex tapestries of tribes and sub-tribes and clans, ancient social orders that remained the populations’ principal source of identification and allegiance.”
Simplistically connecting the dots between the 2003 Iraq War and the chaos that now afflicts the Muslim world projects a misleading narrative of simple cause and effect. To both Sunnis and Shi’ites of the region, 13 years is a blink of an eye, where Muhammad’s word and the death of the fourth caliph ring as clearly to the faithful as though they occurred only yesterday. Westerners cannot understand that 21st-century Islam sees separation of church and state as an alien concept.
Few experts saw the “Arab Winter” coming, just as the best and brightest Israeli military intelligence experts miscalculated the possibility of an Arab invasion in 1973 (Yom Kippur War).
So when US President Barack Obama said with confidence, “The country [Israel] that was most opposed to the deal... [Now] acknowledges this has been a game-changer,” it strains credulity.
Claiming all now agree that the JCPOA is a good agreement makes sense only if your audience is members of Meretz or J Street, not mainstream Israeli parties of the Left, Center and Right, or the American electorate.
I guess the administration missed the Pentagon report in Bloomberg this month, according to which Iran “improved its offensive cyber abilities and developed more advanced ballistic missiles since signing an accord last year to curb its nuclear program.” This violates UNSC resolutions 1929/2231 banning ballistic missile tests, and betrays the president’s own words that snap-back sanctions would occur if Iran violated the deal, as a missile program is essential to an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Worst of all, the legitimization of the Iranian nuclear program betrays Obama’s promise that the “prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent.” As Alan Dershowitz, who studied the deal’s language, wrote in The Times of Israel, “There’s nothing in the deal that says they’re not allowed to develop nuclear weapons.”
In 1973 the same level of certainty was reached by the Israeli military intelligence chief, who was convinced that an Arab attack on Israel was highly unlikely since they had no new jet fighters or Scud missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv. His marching orders were not to panic the nation with repeated call-ups of reservists, disrupting the national economy. So even massive Arab troop movements did not budge him.
False certainty and the desire for “legacy have blinded this American administration, which concluded that Iran is a better long-term friend than Israel or the Gulf States. Just as [with] the inability of the Israeli intelligence chief in 1973 to think out of the box, Mr.
Obama’s conviction borders on delusion as he ignores the dangers of nuclear weapons in the hands of an apocalyptical revolutionary theocracy.”
Karen Armstrong wrote, “Socrates made it his life’s work to compel people to question their most fundamental assumptions... The people who conversed with Socrates usually thought they knew what they were talking about, but by the end of the conversation he had exposed the flaws at the heart of each firmly held opinion.”
This is excellent advice for President Obama, and the next American president, if they really think they know what is going to happen next in the Middle East.
The author is the director MEPIN™ (mepinanalysis.org), read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East