Check out the analysis by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, an expert who led Iran’s National Security Foreign Relations Committee, where he played a crucial role in formulating the country’s foreign and security policies.

All the piecemeal, short-term solutions of the last few decades have failed. Regional and international actors must unite for broad and sustainable peace.

The developing Israel-Iran military conflict, which saw Tehran retaliate with a massive barrage of drones and missiles after Tel Aviv assassinated senior Iranian commanders in the country’s consulate in Damascus, marked one of the largest direct military attacks on Israel since the war in 1967.

Israel has vowed to retaliate despite the risks, as a decade of parallel war between Iran and Israel expands into a possible direct military conflict. This underscores the deep tensions between the two states, highlighting the potential for a wider war in the region.

The region and the world now face six realities.

Firstly, in recent decades, the Middle East has been wracked by turmoil due to the failure of the Israel-Palestine peace process; Russian and US military interventions in Afghanistan; clashes between Israel and Lebanon; Iraqi invasions of Iran and Kuwait; the US war in Iraq; NATO and Arab intervention in Libya; the war in Syria; and the Saudi war in Yemen. These events have fueled the spread of terrorism, sectarianism, corruption and the rise of non-state actors.

Second, the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has intensified hostilities between the US and Iran, in addition to military confrontations across the region.

Thirdly, since October 7th and the start of the war in Gaza, the Middle East has been plunged into a dire military, security and political situation, with the threat of regional war more serious than ever. More than 100,000 people have been killed, injured or captured, with more than two million Palestinians displaced in Gaza.

Fourth, over the past four decades, Iran and Israel have never been able to defeat each other. The US and NATO will continue to defend Israel with all their capabilities. But during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, although global and regional powers supported Saddam Hussein, Iran was able to defend its territory – and its military power has only increased since then. Continued confrontation is in no one’s interest.

Fifth, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to increase tensions and push the US into war with Iran. The attack on the Iranian consulate was in line with this strategy.

And finally, the Middle East is on the brink of collapse amid multiple crises. It cannot tolerate another war. There is a broad consensus that a war between Iran and Israel would drag the region into another catastrophe where everyone would lose.

On the verge of collapse

Despite this unfortunate situation, global and regional powers focus mainly on short-term diplomacy rather than substantial efforts towards a broad initiative to achieve long-term peace and stability in the region.

During my assignment in Germany as Iranian ambassador in the 1990s, German-Iranian relations experienced a period of constructive and productive engagement, which had broader regional and international implications.

In parallel with the expansion of bilateral relations, the two capitals were working on a comprehensive package that included mediation by the German Chancellor to ease hostilities between Iran and the US-Israel axis; establish joint working groups between Iran and the West on weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, human rights and the peace process. If the United States had cooperated, current conditions in the Middle East and Iran’s relations with the West would have been different.

As I explain in my book Iran-Europe Relations: Challenges and Opportunities, talks between the then Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, and the then President of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, reached a high level. Bilateral visits and cooperation have promoted political, cultural and economic collaboration between Iran and Germany, which has opposed US sanctions and pressure policies on Iran. Germany has also provided significant banking and insurance credits to Iran to accelerate reconstruction after the invasion of Iraq.

Ultimately, through German-Iranian cooperation and negotiations with regional states, the largest humanitarian exchange between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah occurred in the mid-1990s and raised hopes for a broader agreement to bring peace to the northern border of Israel.

“In a complicated exchange that took months to negotiate – involving German mediation between Beirut, Damascus, Tehran and Tel Aviv – the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were handed over to Israel by Hezbollah and the group also released 17 prisoners from the Israeli-backed South. Lebanese Army.

In return, Israel dug up and returned the bodies of 141 Hezbollah fighters killed in the last decade and a half of bitter fighting, and ordered the release of 45 Hezbollah prisoners from the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), which runs the Khiam prison in southern Lebanon. “, reported The Irish Times.

Direct negotiations between the US and Iran, an end to the war in Gaza, and a ceasefire between Israel and Iran would be essential to such a comprehensive approach.

Following this exchange of ideas, German authorities and I discussed a broader initiative to resolve the Israel-Lebanon conflict, based on Israel’s withdrawal of its military forces from southern Lebanon and respect for Lebanon’s national sovereignty; and Hezbollah refraining from launching military attacks on northern Israel.

German, Israeli and Iranian representatives supported the proposal, but it ultimately failed after the US refused to support two main initiatives: the establishment of a system of collective cooperation in the Gulf and the creation of joint working groups between Iran and the West on weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, human rights and the peace process.

But this important historical precedent can still be used. Direct negotiations between the US and Iran, an end to the war in Gaza, a ceasefire initiative between Israel and Iran and a regional dialogue between the Gulf countries would be essential for such a comprehensive approach.

The Middle East is tired and hurting, a bankrupt region on the brink of collapse. All the short-term, piecemeal solutions of the last few decades have failed. It is time for a major regional and international agreement to bring broad and sustainable peace. This requires audacity and courageous decisions on the part of the leaders of global and regional powers.

Published by Middle East Eye, April 18, 2024.


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