Israel may stand to benefit from the recent turmoil in Iran and Syria.
When we consider that Bashar al Assad is unlikely to stay in power for very long, the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah may lose their enabler. Combined with that, Iran would lose its biggest ally in the Middle East (i.e. Syria) and be unlikely to weather internal challenges to the same degree as a result of the sanctions imposed on Iran by the west. Nations give legitimacy to one another when they condone the actions of a government. Iran and Syria have a long-standing history of this sort of reciprocity, and they are losing this support by the day. These changes may increase security for Israel.
If Syria's leadership falls, its new leadership may or may not be as favorable to Iran, which would slightly undermine Iranian leadership legitimacy and consequently its stability. Iran's leadership is feeling the impact of sanctions imposed on Iran by the west. Sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program but they have made inflation rise, the economy slow, unemployment increase and the value of their currency decrease. The consequence of this is that the people wonder if the nuclear program is worth the aggravation. Some Iranians say no.
Israel has ample evidence to be concerned about its security. If Israel has evidence that the IAEA does not have about a nuclear 'weapon' dimension of the program, it would behoove Israel to share that evidence with the world -- it would give unquestionable legitimacy to strike Iran's nuclear facilities if Iran did not give up the program. If Israel does not have specific evidence of a nuclear 'weapons' program, the ambiguity is very good reason for Israel to be concerned. In fact, having definite proof of a weapons program would make the decision to strike Iran's facilities relatively easy. This lack of knowledge is the challenge for Israel and the West.
If Iran's ruling regime implodes at the hands of a Green Revolution 2.0, there is no guarantee that the new leadership will be friendly towards Israel, but it is hard to imagine that a more unfriendly regime could ever emerge.
Also unknown is if the regime did fall, and the military decided to assume leadership would the military decide to then positively pursue a weapons dimension to the nuclear program. This may be unlikely since the nuclear program is the cause of the sanctions and the sanctions are the cause of the internal pressure.
The people of Iran and Syria are a proud people who, right or wrong, feel that they have been abused by their leaders and the West for too long. The people do not want instability or war. These are important points to bear in mind what deciding the right course of action that the US and Israel should pursue. We can either push the people away from us and stability, or we can pull the people towards democracy and security for Israel.
The challenge here is that there are a lot of unknowns, there is no easy course of action, and there is no one right way forward. But if there was ever a time for the West to support organic democracy in the Middle East against the homicidal regimes of Syria and Iran, this is that time.
A different, more democratic Iran and Syria may mean a world of difference for Israel, and one that is likely to be more favorable than the current climate.
PAUL HEROUX previously lived and worked in the Middle East and was a senior analyst at the Institute for Defense and Disarment Studies. He has a masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Master's from the Harvard School of Government. Paul is a candidate for US Congress from Massachusetts's 4th Congressional District and can be reached at PaulHeroux.MPA@gmail.com.
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