By Jack Pearce
Let me start with pissing off some, perhaps many, of my interlocutors.
I think the Trump Administration has made a major unforced error in trying to bludgeon Iran into whimpering submission by ending the U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and then trying to cut off Iran’s access to the international oil market. There are many reasons for this view, which I would be glad to share with anyone interested, at a suitable later occasion.
But the U.S. did do this, and we are now seeing a game of tanker tag in the world’s most significant choke point, the Strait of Hormuz, and other sea lanes. All nations involved say they do not want war. This could be true. But speculation on war odds still abounds, because acute conflict is inherent in this situation.
So, now we have to play the hand we have dealt. (Or, at least, the hyperaggressive Trumpites have dealt for us.) And at least one good idea has surfaced -- i.e. a joint maritime peace force in the Mediterranean and Gulf area. (Again, there are many reasons for thinking this a good idea, but let’s get to the point of this article.)
So let’s let our solution be as bold as our blundering. Let’s end this contretemps with a plan to defuse this situation and prevent future recurrence.
Let us -
- Defuse the Strait problem for the long term, by pushing through and expanding pipelines from the major Gulf oil and gas domains to the coasts of Yemen and the Red Sea, terminating at adequately functional ports on those seacoasts. (Of course Saudi Arabia would have to give up the Yemen war, but that would be a net gain for everyone.)
- Create a collective Maritime Peacekeeping Entity, and invite Iran into it. (If the Peace Compact made this peacekeeping force unnecessary, it could be a sort of Coast Guard.)
- Propose a Gulf Area Peace Compact which would include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S., among any necessary others.
- Include Iran in the Compact on the conditions that it unambiguously forswear both nuclear arms and the technology for them, and the missile means of delivering them, as well as forswearing explicit or covert arming of or assistance to adversaries to Israel or any other State in the area.
On first impression, this pie is in the diplomatic sky quadrant of the seventh heaven.
This resolution would be the historic sort of undertaking which might eventually be found necessary to conclude a disastrous regional conflict laying waste much of the Gulf area. toppling in its course and aftereffects the heads of numerous states in the area, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and smaller Gulf states, and convulsing world energy markets. It would, as a nice feature, provide scaffolding for peace hopes thereafter.
The potential for disastrous, regime levelling regional conflict in the strategic Gulf area having now been put before us, why not -- let us ask ourselves -- just skip these unpleasant preliminaries to the settlement?
Everyone except the United States, Europe, Russia and China would have to give up a lot. Building/upgrading those pipelines and ports would be expensive. But given the stakes for all concerned, they could be cheap insurance. The maintenance costs of using them on a continuous basis to an extent sufficient to keep them adequately operational could also be considered insurance, and would generate some income for the local citizens.
Iran, particularly, would have to give up much of its recent-history regional ambitions. But with peace and prosperity before it, why not?
And if the U.S., Europe, Russia and China would have modest costs and gain more long term stability in energy markets, and as a bonus avoid long term resentments in the historic Persian Empire -- which has been and will be there, with its long memory, for millennia -- that is not a bad outcome either.
And let’s consider this. From the perspective of the current occupant of the American White House, it could be one of the best deals of the 21st Century. He could, and probably would, say it is what he intended all along.
Jack Pearce has served as Assistant Chief of United States Justice Department’s Antitrust Division's ‘Public Counsel and Legislative’ Section, Assistant General Counsel of Agency for International Development with responsibilities in Near East, South Asia sector, National Insititute of Public Affairs fellowship at Cornell, Deputy General Counsel, White House Office of Consumer Affairs, law practice relating to pro-competitive regulatory reform, and innovator of virtual office system for attorneys and others.