Mr. Shabtai Shavit, Former Head of the Mossad, Chairman, ICT Board of Directors, and Chairman of Athena Human & Technology Integrated Solutions Ltd., Israel
The photograph published yesterday (11/24/15) of Secretary of State Kerry together with Prime Minister Netanyahu, documents more than the testimony of a thousand witnesses the deep deadlock the State of Israel is in with regard to the conflict with the Palestinians on the one hand, and its relationship with the United States on the other. Our geographical locus in the Middle East has transformed into a boiling cauldron, and we will be dragged under the scalding surface if we don’t take preemptive measures and think “out of the box” about what kind of Middle East the State of Israel needs and wants to advance in the wake of the present state of chaos.
Over the last few days, the Israeli and foreign media has been full of editorial essays and commentaries by pundits addressing the dilemma of security vs. morality, with regard to Western Democracy and the Islamic State. My personal machiavellian opinion says that if we prefer morality over security opposite that specific enemy, when we die we can be proud that we died with greater moral virtue!
But that is not the number one problem today. Today we must try to draft a geo-strategic architecture for the future which will best serve the Middle East and the world. After that is defined, it will be possible to carve out of it the most feasible operative plan. In other words, if any coalition goes to war against the Islamic State, and there is no clear plan for “the day after” that war, the results will be similar to the results of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
It's true that too many players are poking their noses into the Middle East arena. Starting with the global and regional superpowers, as well as large and small individual countries, and ending with gangs of terrorists. It isn't realistic to hope that common ground will be reached that will satisfy the interests of all the players. However, it seems to me that it is both necessary and possible to reach a consensus that the first, most important and most urgent goal is eliminating the threat of ISIS. But before that operation commences, the Middle East we want to see after the operation must be defined. I will try to define that Middle East in the following paragraphs.
The cornerstones of the new Middle East must consist of:
- A diminished Iraq, with a Shi'ite majority which will cover the issue of Iranian sphere of influence, and in return Iran will be asked to stop supporting the Hezbollah.
- A diminished Syria, with or without Bashar al-Assad as president, which will cover the issue of the Russian sphere of influence.
- A new independent country with a Sunni majority ("Sunni-stan") to be established in all of territory held or under the influence of ISIS, which will cover the issue of the American and NATO sphere of influence.
- [I warmly recommend reading the article by John R. Bolton in the International Edition of the New York Times from November 25, titled: "To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State".
- An independent Kurdistan, only on the border of what is presently Iraq, under the patronage of the United States and NATO.
- A demilitarized Palestinian State to be established in the framework of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and which will be based on the Arab League's offer from 2002 as a draft for negotiations, and on suggestions made in the past by Prime Minister Barak, President Clinton, President Bush, and Prime Minister Olmert. Israel will restore its relationship with the United States, and Palestine will earn the support both political and economic of the United States and the moderate Arab countries.
In the new regional political architecture, there will be a satisfactory balance of power, though not total symmetric, between the United States and Russia.
Iran will earn recognition for its influence in Iraq, and will stop supporting Hezbollah.
Turkey, as a member of NATO, will earn the US as well as NATO, and the assurance that the borders with Independent Kurdistan will not violate Turkish sovereignty.
The new Sunni country and independent Kurdistan will each receive a portion of the region's natural resources – mostly oil and gas – which will enable them to achieve economic independence. Both countries will have from the outset land and air corridors, and later on a solution will probably also be found for a sea corridor.
The Palestinian state will have to find a solution for the Gaza issue. First of all, some sort of economic solution must be found, similar to the Marshall Plan, which will be funded by the wealthy Arab world, the United States, and international bodies. The containment of Hamas will be achieved on the backdrop of the new Middle East which will expel all manifestations of radical Islamic terror.
This is the right moment to raise the question of how to eliminate ISIS. To achieve this goal, there is a need for integrated air-ground campaign. The air activity already exists, but is not intensive or effective enough. The only effective ground force, though it is not sufficient, is being implemented by the Iraqi Kurds. I am convinced that the following elements, if they are actualized, will bolster their sorely needed decisive capabilities:
- The United States, France, and other members of NATO (United Kingdom? Turkey?) will set up a joint Command and Control Center, with its central role being the designation of targets based upon all the Intelligence gathered by all of the participants, and mobilization of the air force squadrons in coordination with the selected targets.
- In order to transform the Iraqi Kurds into a sustainable military force, they must be equipped with tanks and mobile artillery, which will increase their maneuvering and firing power capabilities.
- There is room for increasing the number of military advisors and trainers who will support the Kurdish force.
- In order to placate the Turks, an agreement can be reached whereby most of the heavy weaponry supplied to the Kurds will be on loan, and will be returned to the United States at the end of the campaign.
- The Intelligence efforts in designating targets and the Kurdish contribution to this objective on the ground, will allow for minimum collateral damage.
If after reading this proposal anyone comes away with an initial impression of disbelief, I suggest pausing for a few minutes, and then reading it a second time.
The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).