The case for METO - a NATO for the Middle East

Richard Perle, the scary neocon, has a nasty habit of telling the truth.  He thefore frightens the pants off our friends on the Left, which is a good thing, every now and then. Perle did it again this week by talking about getting tough with the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabi radicalism; the Saudis continue to fund the spread of violent fanaticism around the world; they never cease to peddle a nauseating stream of hate propaganda against Jews, Christians and the West; and they created the ideological groundwork for the 9/11 atrocities against the United States. It is no accident that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. They learned their basic ideology at home.

The Saudi rulers also helped pay for the Pakistani nuclear bomb, while pretending to the US that there was no such plan. They continue to spread a ton of money around to buy influence in Washington, thereby shielding themselves from US pressure. Some members of the ruling family may still be sending money to Al Qaida and other terror groups. All true enough. The question is, what can the United States do about it?

Richard Perle thinks the U.S should put the squeeze on the Saudi ruling
family. That would be worth trying, and it can surely be more effective. But the Wahhabi clerics and the House of Saud seem to be utterly intertwined. Saudis absorb Wahhabi teachings with their mother's milk.  It is difficult to guess whether they would ever be able to split away.  Tribal societies are notoriously hard to control, the art of deception is highly developed, and when push comes to shove, the regime's base is only a small minority of the country. So it is hard to calibrate pressure on Saudi Arabia without risking a crisis of the regime.

Even Colonel Qadaffi recently tried to have Crown Prince Abdullah
assassinated
.  It's a rough neighborhood, and if the House of Saud goes down, it's impossible to predict who will follow them. American pressure will only go so far to shape the next regime.  

There may be a better idea: to guarantee Saudi Arabia's defense against nuclear attack from Iran — if they will throw out the most extreme Wahhabi agitators and put in their place some genuine moderates.   Iran is just across the Gulf from Arabia, and its rulers seem to believe that only they represent true Islam. Allah surely meant for Iranian ayatollahs to rule the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, they must think.  

The Saudis must be worried sick.

When Stalin first got his atom bomb in 1949 even France was eager to join NATO. Today Europe is bored with NATO and hates America, but only because it is not afraid of Russia right now. Just as France and Germany were happy to accept a US nuclear umbrella in 1949, so Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and all the rest will be ready for a credible defense pact against Iranian nuclear attack.

Anyone who still doubts that Iran is going for nukes is simply deluded. The Iranians have dispersed their facilities, so they are difficult to take out by force. Iranian missiles will soon reach a thousand miles or more, and other Muslim countries are also at risk. The only known solution is containment by a ring of nations fearful of attack. That is what worked in Europe against the Soviets, and in Asia against Mao's hyperaggressive China.

No country but the US can guarantee a credible nuclear umbrella, because no one believes that Paris, Berlin, or Moscow will retaliate if another country is attacked.  The United States is therefore essential for any nuclear defense pact. With luck, we will also have a working anti—missile defense in half a dozen years.

 The result of the Iranian nukes could therefore be a Middle East Treaty Organization, a NATO for the region. METO would be needed as long as the Iranians were a threat, perhaps for decades, as nuclear capabilities continue to spread around the world. A recent report suggests that the new head of the Tehran regime, Ahmadi—Nezhad, is a true fanatic who believes in the glories of suicidal martyrdom. Whether he is willing to risk thousands or even millions of his own people to "wipe Israel off the map" is anybody's guess. But we would be fools to ignore his words. Fanatics often mean what they say.

The situation is therefore very similar to the early years of NATO, when a militant Stalin was rattling his missiles in Moscow, just as Mao Zedong did a few years later. Even the words are similar.

For Iran to attack Israel with weapons of mass destruction would be suicide.  Such an attack is therefore not likely, though not impossible, given the new chief's martyrdom complex. Nuclear blackmail against Iran's neighbors is much more likely. The goal of METO would therefore be to establish a common defense alliance among Arab and North African countries. Implicitly, such an alliance must have understandings with Israel as well; while Israel doesn't pose an offensive threat to anyone, its 200 nuclear weapons must be coordinated with any METO force.

In an earlier job, Ahmadi—Nezhad headed the El Qods (Jerusalem) Brigade for Tehran, a special ops force designed to infiltrate and terrorize other countries. In a nuclear standoff he would be likely to use them to harass his neighbors, a standard tactic used by all Muslim countries in the Middle East at one time or another. Pakistan has facilitated terrorism against India for many years. Nuclear deterrence would not stop unconventional warfare.

Terrorism aims to frighten and demoralize — as it is  doing today with the Democratic Party. Terrorism does not defeat a well—armed opponent by itself. Strangely enough, nuclear threats have the opposite effect ——— they scare people into sanity, just as India and Pakistan were scared into sanity when they developed nukes. One day crowds were celebrating their new toy in the streets; the next day there were serious attempts at negotiations.A nuclear standoff can therefore have the paradoxical effect of strengthening the spines of even the most easily cowed. There is no realistic alternative to huddling under Uncle Sam's umbrella.

What does METO have to do with the other Saudi export, Wahhabi fanaticism? Well, if they received nuclear protection they would owe us for their very lives. The wider Arab world would have to draw closer together, and also look to the United States for its protection. Even Paris and Berlin will be within easy range of Iranian missiles. Thus the Iranian threat might paradoxically revive NATO, greatly adding to the strength of a new defensive alliance.

With METO support and protection,  the Saudi rulers may feel strong enough to take down their Wahhabi allies. The US should insist upon that as a condition of joining METO.  With their own necks on the line, other Arab countries can be asked to intervene in the Saudi family fight as well. Knocking down the Wahhabis could emerge as a demand from moderate cuslim countries for greater responsibility on the part of Saudi Arabia.

Nuclear weapons can destroy large parts of the world; but so far their
mere existence has served to keep the peace. That is the awful paradox. No one wants Ahmadi—Nezhad anywhere near the trigger, but if he is going to get there he may end up paradoxically bringing victory to civilized countries in the war on terror.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.

Richard Perle, the scary neocon, has a nasty habit of telling the truth.  He thefore frightens the pants off our friends on the Left, which is a good thing, every now and then. Perle did it again this week by talking about getting tough with the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabi radicalism; the Saudis continue to fund the spread of violent fanaticism around the world; they never cease to peddle a nauseating stream of hate propaganda against Jews, Christians and the West; and they created the ideological groundwork for the 9/11 atrocities against the United States. It is no accident that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. They learned their basic ideology at home.

The Saudi rulers also helped pay for the Pakistani nuclear bomb, while pretending to the US that there was no such plan. They continue to spread a ton of money around to buy influence in Washington, thereby shielding themselves from US pressure. Some members of the ruling family may still be sending money to Al Qaida and other terror groups. All true enough. The question is, what can the United States do about it?

Richard Perle thinks the U.S should put the squeeze on the Saudi ruling
family. That would be worth trying, and it can surely be more effective. But the Wahhabi clerics and the House of Saud seem to be utterly intertwined. Saudis absorb Wahhabi teachings with their mother's milk.  It is difficult to guess whether they would ever be able to split away.  Tribal societies are notoriously hard to control, the art of deception is highly developed, and when push comes to shove, the regime's base is only a small minority of the country. So it is hard to calibrate pressure on Saudi Arabia without risking a crisis of the regime.

Even Colonel Qadaffi recently tried to have Crown Prince Abdullah
assassinated
.  It's a rough neighborhood, and if the House of Saud goes down, it's impossible to predict who will follow them. American pressure will only go so far to shape the next regime.  

There may be a better idea: to guarantee Saudi Arabia's defense against nuclear attack from Iran — if they will throw out the most extreme Wahhabi agitators and put in their place some genuine moderates.   Iran is just across the Gulf from Arabia, and its rulers seem to believe that only they represent true Islam. Allah surely meant for Iranian ayatollahs to rule the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, they must think.  

The Saudis must be worried sick.

When Stalin first got his atom bomb in 1949 even France was eager to join NATO. Today Europe is bored with NATO and hates America, but only because it is not afraid of Russia right now. Just as France and Germany were happy to accept a US nuclear umbrella in 1949, so Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and all the rest will be ready for a credible defense pact against Iranian nuclear attack.

Anyone who still doubts that Iran is going for nukes is simply deluded. The Iranians have dispersed their facilities, so they are difficult to take out by force. Iranian missiles will soon reach a thousand miles or more, and other Muslim countries are also at risk. The only known solution is containment by a ring of nations fearful of attack. That is what worked in Europe against the Soviets, and in Asia against Mao's hyperaggressive China.

No country but the US can guarantee a credible nuclear umbrella, because no one believes that Paris, Berlin, or Moscow will retaliate if another country is attacked.  The United States is therefore essential for any nuclear defense pact. With luck, we will also have a working anti—missile defense in half a dozen years.

 The result of the Iranian nukes could therefore be a Middle East Treaty Organization, a NATO for the region. METO would be needed as long as the Iranians were a threat, perhaps for decades, as nuclear capabilities continue to spread around the world. A recent report suggests that the new head of the Tehran regime, Ahmadi—Nezhad, is a true fanatic who believes in the glories of suicidal martyrdom. Whether he is willing to risk thousands or even millions of his own people to "wipe Israel off the map" is anybody's guess. But we would be fools to ignore his words. Fanatics often mean what they say.

The situation is therefore very similar to the early years of NATO, when a militant Stalin was rattling his missiles in Moscow, just as Mao Zedong did a few years later. Even the words are similar.

For Iran to attack Israel with weapons of mass destruction would be suicide.  Such an attack is therefore not likely, though not impossible, given the new chief's martyrdom complex. Nuclear blackmail against Iran's neighbors is much more likely. The goal of METO would therefore be to establish a common defense alliance among Arab and North African countries. Implicitly, such an alliance must have understandings with Israel as well; while Israel doesn't pose an offensive threat to anyone, its 200 nuclear weapons must be coordinated with any METO force.

In an earlier job, Ahmadi—Nezhad headed the El Qods (Jerusalem) Brigade for Tehran, a special ops force designed to infiltrate and terrorize other countries. In a nuclear standoff he would be likely to use them to harass his neighbors, a standard tactic used by all Muslim countries in the Middle East at one time or another. Pakistan has facilitated terrorism against India for many years. Nuclear deterrence would not stop unconventional warfare.

Terrorism aims to frighten and demoralize — as it is  doing today with the Democratic Party. Terrorism does not defeat a well—armed opponent by itself. Strangely enough, nuclear threats have the opposite effect ——— they scare people into sanity, just as India and Pakistan were scared into sanity when they developed nukes. One day crowds were celebrating their new toy in the streets; the next day there were serious attempts at negotiations.A nuclear standoff can therefore have the paradoxical effect of strengthening the spines of even the most easily cowed. There is no realistic alternative to huddling under Uncle Sam's umbrella.

What does METO have to do with the other Saudi export, Wahhabi fanaticism? Well, if they received nuclear protection they would owe us for their very lives. The wider Arab world would have to draw closer together, and also look to the United States for its protection. Even Paris and Berlin will be within easy range of Iranian missiles. Thus the Iranian threat might paradoxically revive NATO, greatly adding to the strength of a new defensive alliance.

With METO support and protection,  the Saudi rulers may feel strong enough to take down their Wahhabi allies. The US should insist upon that as a condition of joining METO.  With their own necks on the line, other Arab countries can be asked to intervene in the Saudi family fight as well. Knocking down the Wahhabis could emerge as a demand from moderate cuslim countries for greater responsibility on the part of Saudi Arabia.

Nuclear weapons can destroy large parts of the world; but so far their
mere existence has served to keep the peace. That is the awful paradox. No one wants Ahmadi—Nezhad anywhere near the trigger, but if he is going to get there he may end up paradoxically bringing victory to civilized countries in the war on terror.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.