EXCERPT: A scenario analysis study over the August 2007-February 2009 period indicates that the Mideast appears to be taking significant steps toward a general
TEXT: Evolution of Iranian-Israeli Relations
The Mideast appears to be taking significant steps toward a general
The original scenario analysis of Iranian-Israeli relations done in August 2007 rested on two parameters: the degree of equality in status and the degree of equality in power. Relative status is highly bimodal and thus tricky to summarize – Western powers following the
To make the purpose of this essay perfectly clear, the immediate task is to accept the premises of the original study and ask how the world has evolved. In brief, what evidence exists that reality is evolving toward any one of the scenarios? For this exercise, the milestones originally defined will serve as useful guides. The more fundamental questions about the propriety of the two axes (power and status) and the utility of adding one or more additional axes (at the cost of exponentially rising analytical complexity) will be held for future discussion.
The Victory to al-Qua’ida Scenario.
The Victory to al-Qua’ida Scenario given above is exactly as I wrote it in August 2007, but with highlighting added. It seems frighteningly close to the actual evolution of events to date, except that it totally misses the (still potential) impact of a compromise-oriented Obama Administration that could, though it still has not chosen to, have a profound overnight impact.
- Considering just the two principals, no statesman capable of breaking the zero-sum competition between
Iranand has yet emerged. Israel
- Extremists on both sides have indeed been strengthened, though offers from the Ahmadinejad administration to talk to the
U.S., the obvious need for Iranian cooperation on several fronts, and Khatami’s decision to run for president offer some hope of moderation. U.S.
- The division of
Palestinehas indeed become even more striking, with the pro-Israeli stance of Abbas during Israel’s attack on Gazaand the continued post-conflict collective punishment of Gazaby . Moreover, this has indeed enticed the Saudis—and even more blatantly the Egyptians—further into competition on, respectively, the side of the Israelis and of Hamas. Israel
- Not only has the Muslim Brotherhood been energized in both
Egyptand , but cracks have appeared in the Jordanese regime over that country’s hostility to Hamas. Jordan
- Netanyahu has indeed moved closer to power, though the actual outcome remains unclear at the time of writing, and the reason seems less panic than a combination of hopelessness and hubris.
- Another development totally missed in the original scenario was the strength of the Turkish reaction to
Israel’s attack. In retrospect, one might have forecast that Gaza under the leadership of a Muslim party could only stomach an Israeli policy of brutality and collective punishment for so long. Whether or not a real reorientation of Turkish-Israeli relations will follow remains unclear, but this is a milestone that should be added to the study. Turkey Israelhas indeed continued to refuse any discussion of the most obvious cause of Iranian-Israel hostility – the Mideastnuclear double standard. [For an example of the blindness of Israelis on the double standard, see historian Benny Morris' attempt to analyze the inevitability of Israeli aggression against Iran that completely ignores the option of offering Iran a deal.]
- Finally, Hezbollah indeed appears within reach of an electoral victory in
To have the system take so many clear steps in the direction of the most disastrous of the four scenarios in only a year and a half should give all observers pause. The most important message of this scenario analysis is not just the commonplace observation that the
- Update scenario description.
- Review milestones.
- Identify causal dynamics.
- Consider adding a third axis.
- Evaluate Iranian-Israeli relations as a complex adaptive system.