In the 1950s, a defense pact was set up and headed by Great Britain, and included the participation of pro-Western states Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. The pact’s raison d’être was to thwart Egypt’s then-ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in his belligerent quest for regional hegemony.
Today, for several reasons, Iran has assumed Egypt’s former position. Like then, there is a need for a pact among the moderate states that support regional stability: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Morocco.
The United States and its allies, including Israel, would naturally have to come to their allies’ aide in both open and discreet ways. In light of two major strategic developments, the present regional circumstances seem fitting for forming such a pact.
The first development is the weakening of Iran’s regional status, which may be attributed to various factors. One, the great number of obstacles Iran’s nuclear project has encountered, resulting from economic and political sanctions and effective sabotage by its enemies.
In addition, a growing number of reports indicate deep schisms in the top echelons of the Iranian government that impede its ability to efficiently function. Iran also failed to determinedly respond to Saudi Arabia’s divisive and successful move in Bahrain (dispatching a military expedition to the island-state to crush a budding civil rebellion). Then there’s the civil rebellion in Syria, which has seriously weakened Iran’s key ally in the region; while Iran’s other suckling charges in the frontlines against Israel — Hamas and Hezbollah — are reluctant to “lift their heads” and pose a real threat. Israel’s proven success on the scientific-technological plane, especially its increasingly sophisticated missile interception capabilities, is gradually eroding the image of Iran’s military might and that of its proxies in the region.
Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that the chances of achieving a permanent Israeli-Palestinian settlement in the near future is quite slim. The Palestinian Authority’s unilateral move to win international recognition of an independent state based on the 1967 borders does not appear likely to advance the peace process. At the same time, the Obama Administration’s power seems to be on a downward spiral: its forced efforts to jumpstart the peace process have run aground for now.
The rousing support showered upon Netanyahu at the U.S. Congress sharply contrasts with the American president’s decreasing approval in the domestic arena. President Obama suffered a major international setback when his colleagues refused to back his proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement at the May 19, 2011 meeting of the G-8.
Under these circumstances, the relevancy of the U.S. administration’s policy of first attaining an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and only afterwards dealing with the Iranian issue seems to be losing steam fast. Thus, the new “Baghdad Pact,” if it materializes, may lead to the removal of the Iranian threat in the first stage. Later, it could shape, by agreement of course, a different Middle East — one in which the national aspirations of its peoples could be realized without threatening the national interests and security of existing states.