Four reasons the US could get Israel to talk about a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction
First, Israel – though still reluctant to engage in any discussion of its nuclear weapons – faces a looming strategic choice. Iran’s advancing nuclear capabilities are threatening Israel’s nuclear monopoly. Military action against Iran may forestall Iran’s nuclear development, but is not likely to prevent it.
A nuclear-capable Iran will require Israel to adopt an active, unambiguous nuclear posture – a dangerous and costly prospect that Israel would rather avoid. Israel has strong incentives to use regional security discussions to constrain Iran’s nuclear development.
Second, Arab states are nervous about Israeli-Iranian tension, fearing both the rise of a nuclear Iran and the consequences of US or Israeli military action against Iran. They will support the convening of regional talks that place limits on Iran, address long-standing territorial issues with Israel, and reduce the chances of another debilitating war in the region.
Third, Iran has good reason not to spoil regional talks. Joining a regional process would present Iran with a clear chance to break free of its growing isolation and demonstrate its peaceful intentions if they are genuine. A negotiation involving Israel would also put Iran’s rhetoric to a more rigorous test. And if Iran fails this test, it will face a more united regional coalition of states as a consequence.
Finally, outside powers have bigger stakes in Middle Eastern stability than they did in the recent past.
China and Russia have vital and growing energy and economic interests. France recently opened a military base in the Persian Gulf. The US has troops deployed in the heart of the region. Proliferation and war in the Middle East will affect every region of the world. The major powers understand the need for agreed-upon security rules to promote Middle East stability.