Another Brick in the BRICS Wall

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif called Tuesday for “seriousness and realism,” for the June talks, adding that the P5+1 should beware of “illusions which might be exerted on them by some pressure groups and people outside the negotiations.” They can eschew these illusions and demonstrate the requisite realism by realizing that–until rapprochement is reached with the U.S.–Iran will have need of an indigenous enrichment capability because Tehran cannot trust the international community (even a friendly Russia, as Gareth Porter explains) to fulfill their end of any fuel bargain. Robert Einhorn, in his appeal for Iran to get real over its nuclear future and its enrichment expectations, finds a happy medium that I’m sure would satisfy Iran and the P5+1:

“If Iran is serious about having an advanced civil nuclear program in the long run, it makes little sense either to operate large numbers of obsolete first-generation centrifuges or to compete with much more experienced and lower-cost foreign enrichment operations in an effort to provide fuel for its power reactors (which require many times more fuel and enrichment capacity than research reactors). A wiser strategy is to use a relatively small number of its current centrifuges to meet near-term research-reactor requirements, rely on more cost-effective foreign suppliers to address the much greater enriched-uranium needs of its power reactors (as countries like Japan do), and make progress toward a more advanced civil nuclear program in the future through domestic research and development and collaboration with Russia and the West.”

What a great recommendation since Iran is already on the same page, wanting all along to resume the international collaboration that has been denied it for decades. This is something the Khameini government would very likely go for but what if they don’t entirely? Einhorn foresees problems, writing that if Iran “instead insists on an overly ambitious, inefficient, and expensive approach not justified by realistic civil nuclear requirements but consistent with a desire to have a rapid breakout capability—it will not only ensure a stalemate in the negotiations but raise serious questions in the international community about its motivations.” First off, if Iran decided to enrich above an amount for “practical needs” as determined by the U.S. it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Although it’s usually argued that Iran has no excuse to enrich a lot of uranium when it’s so energy rich in oil and gas, anyone with a memory extending to the Seventies should know better.

Dafna Linzer tells us the seldom heard story of the U.S.’s nuclear policy towards Iran during Gerald Ford’s presidency. In this much overlooked Washington Post piece, we find out that the Ford administration heeded the arguments of the Shah that Iran couldn’t rely on its domestic oil supply for its surging energy needs and must seek an alternative. The administration approved of Iran’s precaution in deciding to build a sprawling nuclear power industry and U.S. corporations “led by Westinghouse, stood to gain $6.4 billion from the sale of six to eight nuclear reactors and parts.” Tehran makes the same case to this day and it’s no less valid now than it was then. But Washington has selective amnesia because Iran went from friend to foe and so has to pretend that mullahs running the country mean any reason they give for advancing enrichment is just a cover for making nukes.

A Ford administration strategy paper that Linzer cites hits on another reason (aside from Iran is an adversary) why Washington wants to constrict Iran’s enrichment. It noted that the “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.” It’s the freeing up of those reserves that Washington fears. Being able to do that would make Iran–already an influential regional power–into a global one. As a major energy exporter, Iran would become well off enough to join the ranks of Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa in a group of leading developing countries that has been nicknamed ‘BRICS’. The US, in its attempt to stem any challenge to its ‘benevolent global hegemony,’ doesn’t want these up-and-comers becoming any stronger and so haltering Iran’s economic potential is why this geopolitical kabuki production about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program has lasted longer than most Broadway plays.

The One State Solution in One Easy Step

While President Obama, according to a senior aide, wants to “let the failure of talks sink in for both parties, and see if that causes them to reconsider” hoping that the Israelis and Palestinians come clamoring to him for another round of a slogging peace process, former CIA Middle East analyst Emile Nahkleh has gone ahead and pronounced that process dead. It didn’t pain him too much to do so. Instead of the perennial running around in circles courtesy of the United State’s incapable mediation, Nahkleh sees this as the prime opportunity for the world to “seriously begin exploring other avenues for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” such as a bi-national unitary state or “confederal arrangements that guarantee Palestinians equal rights, privileges and responsibilities.” Whatever is decided upon, after two decades of go-nowhere diplomacy, we can finally close the book on this most bedeviling Middle Eastern conflict.

It has been apparent that the two-state paradigm is a sneaky means of maintaining the status quo of occupation because, although it couldn’t ever succeed, no one would call for scrubbing it either. As Nahkleh writes, “Whenever the two-state approach was questioned over the years, its defenders would quickly ask, “What’s the alternative?” and would dismiss the “one-state” suggestion and similar options as non-starters.” This was the very thinking exemplified last month by Secretary of State John Kerry when he made his apartheid gaffe. “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative,” Kerry intoned, “Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.” But the latter one state solution must be seriously considered because it’s the two state solution that isn’t a real alternative in the eyes of Israelis and Palestinians.

Reporting on the findings of a Hebrew University poll, Adiv Sterman writes that the two parties “were skeptical as to the sustainability of such an agreement in the long term.” There can’t be any lasting peace because even if two states were achieved, both sides would suspect the other of continuing to covet the rest. “Sixty percent of Palestinians said they believed Israel aims to extend its territory over all of the area between the River and the Sea, and to expel its Arab citizens,” according to the poll, and “Thirty-four percent of Israelis agreed that the Palestinians aspire in the long run to occupy the State of Israel and eliminate the country’s Jewish population.” It is indeed easy to see the ejected settlers yearning to return to ‘Judea and Samaria’ and the Palestinians to their ancestral homes within Israel. After a while of coexistence and cooperation (if no violent conflict erupts anew and Israel occupies the Palestinians again), I’d imagine Israelis and Palestinians coming together and saying “alright, this is stupid; let’s just share the whole damn thing.”

Some would make the argument that implementing a bi-national state wouldn’t be quite so tidy. But, for those who despair of a new conflict in that event, out of the mouth of an innocent babe comes forth their salvation. Peter Beinhart has written a curious thing that could settle any dilemma: “For all practical purposes, West Bank Palestinians cannot become Jews and because they cannot, they are barred from citizenship in the state that controls their lives.” Wait, so is he saying that if the West Bank Palestinians would just become Jewish then they would be granted citizenship, full rights, etc? This is a remarkable statement that gives me an ingenious idea for a one state solution in one easy step—have all the Palestinians become Jewish! I know it sounds bogus but bear with me.

Their ‘conversion’ wouldn’t require a change of religion, merely one of culture. After all, former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett told the United Nations in 1947, “Anyone who thinks he is a Jew is a Jew–but he need not practice its rules.” If that’s the case, the Palestinians don’t have to be adherents of Judaism and can nevertheless deem themselves Jewish. And who’s to say Sharett’s definition is wrong? Who has the authority to gainsay him considering the question of what it means to be Jewish is still hotly debated among Jews themselves? So all the Palestinians have to do is declare themselves culturally Jewish (like all the secular Jews who are Israeli citizens) but still retain their Islamic faith (like how one be of Persian culture and Muslim) and—voila!–Israel remains a Jewish state. All the Palestinian refugees could then return with no problem and everybody would be satisfied. Thank you, world–I’ll take that Nobel Peace Prize now.

Alright, I’ll admit my idea is being put forward in a somewhat satirical spirit (though I do think it could be just crazy enough to work) but it may not even be necessary since some right-wing Israelis are willing to offer the West Bank Palestinians full citizenship and voting rights without them having to amend their identities which Beinhart implies would have to happen first. It would be a one state solution dedicated to maintaining a demographic balance with a Jewish majority and wouldn’t include Gaza or the refugees. It’s a trickier approach but a doable one if the refugees are properly compensated and Gaza is absorbed into Egypt. At all events, a one state solution is coming and we’ll see which of the visions for it wins out.