Netanyahu might have a bolder ambition in mind than merely preventing Iran from advancing its nuclear program. The Middle East is changing more rapidly than at any time since the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Countries in the region are vanishing from the maps of the world, breaking apart into smaller, often antagonistic mini-states. Libya is now three provinces and a dozen or so regional and tribal militias. Syria has fragmented into a Shia-Alawi region along the Mediterranean and countless regions under various militias backed by different foreign powers. Iraq has seen its Kurdish north all but break away and its Sunni west is slipping from its grasp.
Corrrectly or not, Israel may see Iran as vulnerable to fragmentation or at least to destabilization and it may also see prolonged and tougher sanctions as critical to causing internal disarray. A weaker economy brings discontent among the urban middle classes and out among the non-Persian peoples as well. The Kurds in the northwest see greater prospects for their own state than at any time since the end of World War One. The Balochs in the southeast are already waging a low-level insurgency. Several other groups such as the Azeri, Arabs, Bachtiari, Luri, Sevan, Khamseh, and Qashqai may become restive if Tehran’s coffers are no longer flush with sufficient oil revenue to mollify them.
More astonishing transformations have already taken place in the Middle East in the last three years. Among them is the rise of Sunni militancy, perhaps most ominously from Jerusalem’s perspective just to the west in Egypt and the northwest in Syria – two countries that were less hostile to Israel in recent years, either due to US aid or Israeli intimidation. Sunni militancy is on the rise and less doctrinaire and more pragmatic foreign policy advisers in Jerusalem might realize that it poses a more serious threat to Israel than Iran does. More historically-informed advisers will recall that Iran was once Israel’s chief regional ally and that the changing Middle East might make it an ally again someday.
©2014 Brian M Downing
Brian M Downing is the author of The Paths of Glory and with co-author Danny Rittman the forthcoming novel The Samson Heuristic.