Iran Has Changed the Middle East Security Agenda

[Washington Institute for Near East Policy] IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog - I recently met with a very prominent figure in one of the Gulf states. He said, "The reason I had an interest in meeting you could be summed up in one word: Iran. We are on the same side. We feel threatened by the Iranian nuclear projects, by their political ambitions, by their subversion and so on. And frankly, we are skeptical of whether Iran could be stopped. We don't know if the U.S. administration will be assertive enough, and if Iran goes nuclear it's going to be hell for all of us." This anecdote encapsulates the general feeling today in the Middle East. When we talk to our neighbors in Egypt, in Jordan, in the Gulf states, in North Africa, the number-one topic that comes up is Iran. They are scared by the Iranian projects and ambitions. They are willing to do a lot in order to stop it. Some of them are exerting more efforts in order to stop the Iranians and be more assertive. Others, who fear that Iran can't be stopped, are aligning themselves with the Iranians. This confrontation between the radical and the moderate axis impacts the behavior of some of the regional actors, and you see things that you have not seen in the past. Look at the way Egypt behaved while we were operating in Gaza. They basically gave us a free hand and wished that we would crush Hamas. I am often asked, why did you stop the operations in Gaza? Why didn't you crush Hamas? In order to topple the Hamas regime we would have needed to occupy the whole of Gaza, to stay there for a very long time, and to assume responsibility for 1.5 million civilians. Beyond all of this, Gaza is not the number-one challenge that we face. We have Iran, we have Hizbullah, we have other issues. So we decided not to go the full way. Hamas was badly beaten. I think we have created a sufficient deterrence, for the time being at least.

2009-05-13 06:00:00

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