By Jan Oberg
Please try Google “Gulf states want nuclear weapons against Iran – Israel “ and only one Western mainstream media will appear, an excellent article by The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem.
What is this about?A new coalition?
So the usual Western media filter, meaning it must be interesting. And it is a quite sensational story: Saudi Arabia and Israel are up to a nuclear mischief against a country that has just been prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by means of a huge legally binding document, UN Security Council endorsement and extremely tight monitoring mechanism. What’s it about?
It’s about Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon saying in public at the recent Munich conference that Arab states are “not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear bomb”.
He thinks that Iran was liable to break the agreement as their economic situation improves with the lifting of international sanctions. Ya’alon is quoted as saying that “I speak about the Gulf states and North African states too…For them, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are the enemy. Iran is the bad guy for us and for the Sunni regimes. They are not shaking hands [with Israelis] in public, but we meet in closed rooms.”
So not only Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorship but also Gulf and North African states: A coalition lead by Saudi Arabia and Israel – Israel as the only nuclear weapons power in the region and Saudi Arabia as the most likely next nuclear weapons state.
For much too long the world’s attention has been on Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons, not on the dozens or hundreds real nukes that Israel possesses as a non-member of which is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
One can say that Israel and Saudi Arabia lost the political battle against the nuclear deal with Iran concluded with the five permanent UNSC members and Germany last year – and now will do their utmost to use Iran’s non-nuclear weapons status as a pretext for others going nuclear against, predominantly, Iran.
Propaganda hysteria dominates in an age where knowledge plays a diminishing role
The problem for them, however, is that Iran will be difficult to sell as a real threat – but we live of course in an age of deception, propaganda and lies. In military expenditure terms, Iran is a dwarf compared with those who consider Iran their enemy. Thus, a story like the one we deal with here is filtered out: A Sunni fundamentalist-Israeli alliance doesn’t look so good in the rest of the world.
What’s the correlation of forces in this equation?
In terms of military expenditures – not a perfect but reasonably comparative indicator – Saudi Arabia spends about US$ 82 billion (making it the 3rd or 4th largest military power on earth) which means US$ 2950 per capita. That it is known for not being able to handle all the toys is true, but they may get some help in the future. Israel spends about US$ 16 billion and Iran (with 10 times bigger population than Israel) US$ 6 bn. The U.S. – still to some extent considered an ally by Israel, Gulf States, Egypt and Israel – surfs around US$ 600-700 billion as a minimum.
What this could well mean is that a new predominantly anti-Iran and anti-shia coalition/group/network is taking shape: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt under the nuclear “umbrella” of Israel with Saudi Arabia and possibly others attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Add to that two other important actors – NATO member Turkey and ISIS/Daesh.
What binds some of them together?
Oil of course plus sunni-orientation and shia animosity. A mistrust of predominantly shia Iran which, when it was Islamised, kept its own distinct culture and identity and – quite importantly for the future: decreasing trust in and reliance on the United States.
Israel’s conflict with the U.S. under Obama is based on the Palestine-Israel conflict and the nuclear deal with Iran. Saudi Arabia is a major supporter of ISIS, so is NATO Turkey; that the US is allegedly is fighting against as part of the ’war on terror.’ And while Israel is keeping a rather low profile in Syria and about al-Assad, this emerging coalition wants al-Assad to fall.
That was also the U.S. position until recently and probably will be so again, particularly if the fragile ceasefire crumbles. The U.S. now sees business opportunities in Iran and Iran, together with Russia, supports al-Assad and not ISIS/Daesh, Al-Qaeda, or the non-existing ‘moderate’ militants that the U.S. still uses as a pretext – while CIA and Pentagon hilariously (if it wasn’t so tragic) keep supporting different groups who fight each other.
The outcome of the Syria tragedy – where they are all involved but cannot all win, perhaps all will lose – will be the single most important shaper of the mentioned coalition or co-operative structure in the Middle East.
The Unites States has lost in the Middle East, the coalition is an indicator
One thing is sure, however: The mentioned coalition – lose or a stronger coalition in the future – will be anti-Iran and even more so when Iran’s recent elections point in the direction of continued opening-up domestically and globally – something the authoritarians elites in Israel, Saudi Arabia and ISIS will hate to see because it is bound to give Iran more and more goodwill in the world.
The recent election result in Iran speaks for itself – but has not received the appropriate attention in the West: It kind of doesn’t fit that that positive changes are more possible in a “dictatorship” than they seem to be in a “democracy” such as the U.S.
To the extent this Sunni/Salafist/Zionist coalition develops more strongly it is likely to become the single biggest problem for peace-building in the future Middle East. It may also emphasise the diminishing influence of the U.S. and all Western powers in the region: Too much deception, arrogance, exceptionalism, brutality, too many mutually contradictory games and, above all, two things: Too many failed wars creating hatred, too little vision and no overarching strategy that could create hope.
The West can, in no way, be a mediator in the process of shaping the future, prosperous and indigenously democratising, free Middle East. After having killed at least 4 million Muslims since 1990 – oh yes, why do they hate us?? – it’s time for Western withdrawal and giving peace a real chance.
An apology coupled with a generous people-uplifting civilian assistance would be the best way out – together with a moratorium on arms exports to the region, nuclear weapons in the region and closing down all military bases and other violent presence.
Whichever way it goes, this coalition-in-the-making is bound to dash any and every hope for true peace in the region – mainly because of its extreme right-wing ideology, fundamentalism and militarism, its authoritarian leaderships and its political stagnation. All elements of a world of the past, of only dark Winter and no Spring. Even for its own sake, the West should get out.
Iran – the best potential for new common security and win-win
Like in Europe, there can only be one type of security in the Middle East and that is common security – a focus on common interests and on working with and not against each other. The Middle east holds lots of potential for common interest cooperation and common security. But no one in the Sunni-Salafist-Zionist coalition would see it.
And what could Iran do if this coalition gains momentum and Saudi-Arabia goes nuclear?
Well it could certainly increase its conventional defence in a defensive defence mode with reference to the right of self-defence in the UN Charter; it could refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons because that is considered Haram and because it will give Iran worldwide sympathy to do something else, spearhead a new peace thinking not based on banal tit-for-tat arms racing and animosity. President Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Javad Zarif beyond doubt represent the best possible guarantee for such a principled peace-promoting policy in the future.
Third, it could place itself in the midst of a super-dynamic co-operative structure as a bridge-builder with the BRICS countries and China’s Silk Road/Belt vision. The potential of this is huge, almost beyond imagination in its vision – and the West hasn’t even heard about it.
Fourth, become a mediator, a meeting place for people around the world to sit in its beautiful mountains and solve their problems.
In short – a bit like Switzerland’s formula: be useful to the rest of the world and threaten no one – defensive defence. That will be a better protection and safer security strategy than any attempts to reciprocate the extremism and militarism of the mentioned coalition.
Countries that do something good for themselves and for the world – positive sum – will win even where others are playing win-lose – zero sum – games.
In today’s world the paradigm of security against others is only for intellectual, political and moral losers.
And in tomorrow’s world, peace-makers will have won and militarist states(men) gone down. Unless, before that, we’ve all perished thanks to unconventional (terrorist), conventional or nuclear militarism.
What was meant to secure us all has turned into the greatest threat to us all. That’s what the Middle East, the world’s most militarised region (by us), is also about.