It looks like the powers that be (literally) are moving more or less consciously toward the only possible future for the Middle East: recognition that nuclear power implies responsibility. I’m venturing to say here that I think we may see in coming months a down-playing of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, in favor of allowing it to participate in the stabilisation of a region upon which an important element of the world’s economy depends.
It’s too early in the day to know what Tony Blair will be saying to the Iraq Commission, but hints just heard on CNN suggest that Blair, for all his mistaken agreement to the invasion, now sees clearly that leadership in world affairs can now only be collegial among all ten (or so) nuclear powers. On the Eurasian continent, that includes Iran, Pakistan and India. Hence the proposal to bring Iran into the negotiations concerning Iraq’s future.
But the core issue in Iraq is what to do about the ethnic and religious differences between its constituent peoples. Sandra Mackey’s detailed history of internal hatred and aggression in “The Reckoning” published in 2002, shows the plausibility – possibly the necessity – of a three-state solution. Hence the need to also bring in Syria, and, I would add, Turkey.
For reasons which I have yet to discover, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey have all been been intent on depriving the Kurds of a united country. They almost got it after the first world war, and the Allied change of heart has been in a way the tail that has wagged the dog in that region for almost a hundred years, influencing in a disastrous way decisions on major issues concerning the four countries in which they live as minorities.
Returning now to Iraq: the Sunnis, located in the western part of the country, have long flirted with Syria (Saddam and Hafez al Asssad had even set up a short-lived union); the Shia in the east share their religious heritage with Iran. And the Kurds deserve a state of their own. The Turks would appear to be the most difficult to persuade, after decades of warfare against their Kurds. But perhaps recognition by the United States of a new power configuration including a nuclear Iran, will cause Turkey to decide to make its future with the Middle East rather than with Europe, about which they now have serious misgivings anyway. Within that context, it may feel it can let go of its Kurds as part of a regional confederation modelled on the European Union.
This may sound grandiose, but it’s probably the only reasonable way out of a situation in which people from Gaza to Kabul are dying by the hundreds – or thousands – every day.
What this will imply for Israel is recognition that it has to be a part of that world, rather than an American surrogate.