In April of 2010, I published on my personal blog an article entitled, “The Linkage Theory.” Very little has changed since the article was published except that Iran is much further along the way to acquiring nuclear weapons capability and the Arab nations are even more in favor of action to prevent that from happening. I have made made a few updates to account for developments in recent years in the article which follows.
The Linkage Theory
The linkage theory contends that moving the peace process toward Palestinian goals in order to appease the Arab League would then encourage or enable Arab states to stand up against Iran and its nuclear ambitions. This theory makes no sense for many reasons. At the most basic level, it benefits the United States, Israel, and the Arab nations for Iran not to have nuclear weapons. This is something the Arab nations uniformly wish to avoid. They are not on the other side of the issue. They do not need to be convinced to oppose Iranian nuclear weapons.
Everyone for whom Israeli-Palestinian peace is of vital importance is already aligned against Iranian nuclear weapons.
The L.I.E. from 2007, excuse me the NIE or National (Lack of) Intelligence Estimate, concerning the Iranian nuclear program bolstered opponents of action against Iran. I wrote about the NIE with unfortunately too much accuracy in December of 2007. The 2012 NIE recognized failures in the 2007 NIE, but failed to recognize that slow but steady progress was being made on all fronts and that enrichment was proceeding apace. Israel strongly disagreed with both assessments, believing each to have been based on misinformation and incorrect information. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s own report from this year stated the following:
Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.
On October 28, 2013 an article was published in the Times of Israel that suggested that Iran’s enrichment program had reached a level that would enable Iran to obtain enough fully enriched uranium necessary to create a bomb in a matter of two weeks time, though it would take several months to a year more to create an actual bomb. That said, Israel is right be be concerned about the expansion of Iranian enrichment capability.
Professor Oli Heinonen of Harvard said that:
Once Iran produces weapons-grade uranium and already has 20% enriched uranium, 90% of the work is already done. It is incorrect to refer to 20% enriched uranium as “medium-enriched uranium,” because “the cup is not half-full or half-empty, it’s a cup 90% full, because you need to do only that tiny, small additional 10% of effort to produce highly enriched uranium.”
So relatively swift action regarding Iran’s nuclear program is essential, not just optional.
Another major problem for the Linkage Theory is that Iran is a major supplier of weaponry to Hizballah, the Assad Regime in Syria, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. One of the most basic principles of the peace process is that it must result in security for Israel. It would make far more sense first to address Iranian weapons distribution to Palestinian and anti-Israel forces and the Iranian nuclear issue which threatens to dramatically worsen the problem. Ensuring Israel’s security as the process moves forward is perhaps the top priority of the peace process.
If there is a linkage between action against the Iranian nuclear program and progress in the peace process, it is precisely the reverse of what is regularly proposed. The real linkage, if there is any at all, is that peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arab nations necessitates the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat.
The obvious fact that the broader conflicts in the Middle East have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict further weakens linkage as well. The Sunni – Shia conflict and conflicts between Nationalists and Islamists in Muslim nations as well as conflicts among those who would create Islamic law based states dwarf the impact what happens in the sliver of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.
This is all by no means to say that Israeli-Palestinian peace is unimportant. It is certainly that for the future of Israel, the well-being of both peoples, and for the well-being of the region. Yet it is important to note that the world must address the Iranian nuclear issue first and foremost, not only because resolving that issue will help to enable Israel to move forward in negotiations with those with whom it has been at war for decades with a stronger sense of security, but because it is in America’s naked self interest to stop Iran from becoming a regional hegemon and a world wide threat to our interests in possession of nuclear weapons.
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