Use Iran against Egypt
about everyone is concerned with Iran’s rising influence in the Middle
East. Israel, the United States, Egypt, and Russia protest what they
see as Iranian incursion on their turf. Russia and America are in a
double bind: Iran acts both in the Middle East
and in their backyards, Central Asia and Venezuela, respectively. For
Egypt, rising Iran creates a major domestic threat: dormant Shiite
communities in Egypt and Shiite proselytes sponsored by Iran are
inherently disloyal to Egypt’s secular Sunni regime. Russia sees Iran
as wooing away its traditional clients: Syrians and Palestinians.
France protests Iran taking Lebanon and Syria out of the French sphere
of influence. And Israel rightly feels threatened by Iranian nuclear
weapons, although Iran needs them only for boosting its regional
standing, rather than for actual attack.
It hardly pays to swim against the tide of history. Iran is
returning to its historically prominent position. The country which
destroyed ours in the sixth century BCE and helped us to establish a
short-lived Jewish state a thousand years later; the country that was
powerful when Egypt was a non-power; the populous, civilized, educated,
and rich country it once was. Iran will unavoidably rebound.
Israel had helped Iran with its nuclear program. That happened under
the Shah, even though a failure of the monarchy was only a matter of
time; monarchy is not viable in the modern world. So the real problem
is not the Iranian nukes, but Iranian friendliness. Love is impossible
for now, but cooperation can made possible. Israel has no other option:
Iran can actually move its low-end but massive army against Israel
through friendly Kurdistan, Jordan, and Syria. Unlike Israel’s
traditional enemies Egypt and Syria, Iran is extremely tolerant of
strikes at its civilian centers, as shown in the Iran-Iraq war. There
is really nothing short of a multiple nuclear strikes that Israel can
do to stop the Iranian military advance. So Iran has to be accommodated.
Israel shares a political common ground with Iran: both need to do
away with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As far as Israel is concerned, US
military aid allowed Egypt to develop a relatively agile modern army,
and Saudi Arabia has both a huge conventional arsenal (which it can
loan to Egypt) and nuclear weapons (developed by Pakistan with Saudi
money). For Iran, Egypt is a major contender for regional influence,
and Saudi Arabia is the oppressor of the Shia population conveniently,
settled in the Saudi oilfield region.
Israel should prefer Iranian Shiite dominance in the region to
Egyptian Sunni dominance. Egypt will soon become even more radicalized
than Iran, after the Muslim Brotherhood takes power. Iranians are
disenchanted with the mullahs but Egyptians are all for the Muslim
Brotherhood. So it’s not a choice between a peaceful secular Egypt and
the Ahmadinejad state, but between two heavily armed Islamic
fundamentalist states. In such an outlook, Iran is preferable, as it
has not started any wars in its recent history—unlike Egypt, which has
attacked Israel continually, and continues to do so through its
Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood proxy.
Whatever we do will threaten us. If Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities
and suffers massive retaliation, it would only clear the way for
Egyptian dominance. Egypt will continue building a conventional army,
to be inherited by the politically victorious Muslim Brotherhood, and
would likely develop nuclear weapons, feeling that the US Camp David
guarantees protect it from Israeli reprisal.
Without the Sinai and the West Bank, Israel is a beach approximately
sixty miles long by fourteen miles wide. The Negev is uninhabitable,
and the Galilee is densely settled by hostile Israeli Arabs. A country
sixty by fourteen miles cannot survive. We can effectively increase its
size by attacking preemptively far outside of our borders. Short of
that, Israel needs strategic cooperation with Iran.