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Vision 2002
Historical forces at work

January 14, 2002
The Iranian

Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
Alfred Tennyson, "The Higher Pessimism"

It is the year 2020. It calls for reflections on the past. Vision 2020 gives you sharp and questioning eyes. Why did the bloody wars among the Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the last two centuries take place at all? Why couldn,t the children of Abraham unite sooner in a struggle against their common enemies, namely injustice, hatred, and violence? Why did it have to come to a nuclear war and millions of casualty on all sides before they learned to establish a commonwealth of Middle Eastern nations?

Now that an Association of Middle Eastern Nations (AMEN) is a political reality, all these questions conjure up only bad dreams. The nightmare of successive Arab-Israeli Wars in 1946, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and the protracted Palestinian Intifada all seem like a total madness. In 1953, the Anglo-American intervention in Iran to topple a democratic government and replace it with the Shah,s dictatorship triggered an Islamic revolt that spread to the entire region. The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 was a concerted effort by the conservative states and Western powers to stem the revolutionary tide.

History repeated itself. In the first stage, a social revolution such as the French, Russian, Cuban, or Iranian revolution occurs. In the second stage, all the conservative states unite and attack the revolutionary state to pre-empt the export of its message. In the third stage, the revolutionary regime solidifies itself around a patriotic war of defense and pushes back the aggressors. Its success glorifies the revolution for all others to take note. This historical pattern repeated itself every time in the French, Russian, Cuban, and Iranian revolutions.

However, politicians rarely learn from history! Saddam Hossein,s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 demonstrated how greed obscures the most elementary calculations of power. The American response to the Iraqi invasion was massive and successful in the short run. But trying to isolate Iran and Iraq, the two most populous Persian Gulf nations, from developing a regional security regime seems now foolish and short sighted. Now that Arabs and Persians are allied, the controversy about the name of the Persian Gulf, initiated by President Nasser of Egypt to advance his own ambitions, seems like a bad joke.

Global terrorism is another nightmare of the past. It stemmed from a struggle of the Global South against the Global North, the poor against the rich. But on the surface, it appeared as an Islamic revolt against the West. Some pundits went so far as calling it a "clash of civilizations between the West and the rest, an Islamic-Confucian alliance against the Judaic-Christians. In response, others called for a "dialogue of civilizations. But in reality, guerrilla warfare combined with ideologies of resistance (communism, nationalism, ethnicity, race, and religion) for long had been the weapons of the weak against the strong.

As globalization accelerated during the last four decades, both state and oppositional terrorism became globalized. Networks of drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons trade, campaign financing, political corruption, and terrorism undermined democratic and non-democratic regimes alliance. Modern democracies were corrupted by the rise in campaign financing costs, increase in corporate welfare, decline in social welfare, growth of ghettoes of the rich and poor, and rising crime in the urban centers. Premodern dictatorships increasingly turned to violent and repressive measures, often in cooperation with Western governments and corporations, in order to plunder the national wealth. Some sleazy characters like Marcos, Mobutu, and Suharto come to mind.

In 2010, Saddam Hossein,s life and regime came to an end abruptly by his assassination in the hands of his own son. That triggered a disintegration of Saddam,s tightly woven Takriti Mafia into rival factions. A Shi,a revolt in the south and a Kurdish revolt in the north invited Iran to intervene. The integration of Iran and Iraq recreated one of the oldest imperial systems in West Asia, this time armed with nuclear power. Pakistan, Turkey, and Egypt joined the new union. Other Islamic states in the region had no choice but to close ranks. The stage was set for the confrontation of two traditional Eastern and Western empires. In the past, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine empires had confronted the Persian, Arab, and Turkic empires.

In 2015, a United States-Israeli alliance faced a new Islamic union in the Middle East. The nuclear war that ensued lasted only one day. December 21, 2015 resembled the Armageddon so vividly described by the three Abrahamic religions. Its casualties were in the millions. Great cities such as Jerusalem, Istanbul, Tehran, Baghdad, Cairo, and Isfahan were turned into ashes. The government leaders and their regimes were thrown into the dustbin of history. Chaos ruled. It took five years before the forces of sanity began to prevail again.

As a result, the major powers in the Middle East began to realize that they must mend their ways. On January 1, 2019, an international peace conference met in Jerusalem. Women dominated the American, European, and West Asian delegations. Peace organizations such as the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (Tokyo and Honolulu) and the Center for World Dialogue (Nicosia, Cyprus) provided the hospitality. The UN Secretary-General presided over the meeting. Instead of focusing on the nightmares of the past, the conference focused on the future.

The net outcome of the conference was the formation of AMEN. Built on the model of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), AMEN brought the warring and competitive states into a peaceful and cooperative framework. Its membership consists of all of the Middle Eastern states. The United States, Russia, China, and the European Union became associate members.

The new club left its membership open to the states in the Caucuses and Central Asia that subscribed to its objectives. The members pledged themselves to collective security, and a gradual development of economic integration and common political institutions. A bicameral regional parliament consisting of a senate and a house came into being provided democratic regional checks and balances. The Presidency of AMEN, a ceremonial job, will rotate among distinguished Jewish, Christian, and Islamic leaders with universal respect in the region. The first president is Javaher Bahar, a renowned poetess from Afghanistan. Administered by the AMEN Secretariat, Jerusalem is the capital.

AMEN has served all of its members well. The West is guaranteed its access to a free flow of oil, or what remains of it, at stable prices tied to the prices of its own exports to the region. The United States no longer has to maintain an armada at considerable cost and immeasurable resentment. Israel has gained a vast market for its goods, services, and scientific-technological know-how.

Instead of quarrelling among themselves or with others, the Arabs are now focusing on their own social and economic development. AMEN controls the three most strategic waterways in Eurasia. Their improved bargaining power vis-à-vis Europe, America, and Asia has gained them respect and benefits. Turkey no longer has to beg to join Europe. Egypt no longer has to beseech for foreign aid. Iran no longer has to take hostages to have its voice heard. Iraq is a prosperous country exporting food, capital, and brains to the region. Israelis and Palestinians live no longer in dehumanizing insecurity.

I talk of dreams; which are the children of an idle brain; begot of nothing but vain fantasy. Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"


Majid Tehranian is professor of international communication at the University of Hawaii and director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.

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