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Yoram Ettinger: Middle East Policy – Realism vs. Wishful-thinking

Yoram Ettinger

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”
January 17, 2020,

A critical battle takes place among Middle East observers, researchers and policy makers in Western democracies: the reality-driven, politically-incorrect worldview vs. the wishful-thinking/oversimplification-driven, politically-correct worldview.

The reality-driven worldview recognizes the potency of the inherently frustrating domestic/regional features of intra-Arab/Muslim relations in the Middle East:

*Fragmented societies
*Local rather than national allegiance
*Violent intolerance
*Terrorism and subversion
*Minority, repressive, one-bullet tenuous regimes, policy and accords
*Absence of intra-Arab/Muslim peaceful-coexistence
*Islam-driven goals and values (including the subservient “infidel”)
*Anti-Infidel hate education and religious incitement
*“On words one does not pay custom”

The reality-driven school of thought hopes for a best-case scenario, but recognizes that in the Middle East it is the bad/worst-case scenario which tends to prevail, requiring extra precaution and added security requirements in order to ensure one’s survival and advance general interests.

On the other hand, the wishful-thinking-driven worldview assumes that it is possible to seduce Middle East reality to adopt Western values, norms, fairness, common sense, reason, “live and let live” and peaceful goals, foregoing its 14- century-old underlying religious, civic, military, domestic and regional features.  The wishful-thinkers are convinced that – in return for significant gestures, enhanced standard of living, improved trade balance, peace and liberty – Middle East reality would display the moderate/best case scenario, willing to accord “infidels” long term peaceful coexistence, that they tend to deny fellow “believers.”  Thus, the eagerness of wishful-thinkers to expand peace and harmony, by oversimplifying and pacifying the explosive anti-Western Middle East, has intensified regional and global turbulence.

The wide gap between these two schools of thought has been conspicuous since the December 2010 eruption of the current wave of Middle East turbulence. The wishful-thinkers have called the unprecedented bloodshed, civil wars, domestic and global terrorism – extending from northwest Africa to the Persian Gulf – “the Arab Spring,” “Facebook and Youth Revolution” and the “March of Democracy.” In reality, it has been a tectonic Arab Tsunami, which has yet to reach its peak.  This has been the frustrating reality for those who refuse to recognize the real Middle East and appease inherently anti-Western elements; thus, eroding the Western posture of deterrence, adding more fuel to the fire.

In 1978/79, the wishful-thinkers sacrificed the Shah of Iran, who was the US’ policeman in the Persian Gulf, on the altar of the Ayatollahs. They provided a most effective tailwind to the leading anti-US terrorist regime on the globe.  They mistakenly considered Ayatollah Khomeini, then exiled in Paris, a messenger of democracy and peace, an anti-Soviet leader, a potential ally of the West, easily controlled by pro-US Iranian military leaders.

In 1990, on the eve of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the wishful-thinkers assumed that “the enemy (Saddam) of my enemy (the Ayatollahs) is my friend,” and therefore provided Saddam with vital intelligence, commercial benefits and dual-use systems. They considered Saddam’s threats to invade Kuwait an intra-Arab issue, thus paving the road for the plundering of Kuwait and the First and Second Gulf Wars.

In 2003, the demise of Saddam Hussein catapulted the US posture of deterrence, shaking the confidence of the rogue regimes in Iran, Syria and Libya (in 2004, the latter transferred its nuclear infrastructure to Tennessee). However, the wishful-thinkers decided that the Arab Middle East was ripe for Jeffersonian democracy, ignoring the reality of pro-US Arab regimes, who considered democracy a clear and present lethal threat to their own thrones. Moreover, the wishful-thinkers assumed that appeasing Islam would stabilize the region, failing to realize that gestures, retreats and appeasement are perceived as weakness by Middle East regimes, whetting the appetite of rogue regimes and hampering Western posture of deterrence.

In 2015, the wishful-thinkers assumed that Iran’s Ayatollahs were motivated by economic considerations, amenable to negotiation and peaceful gestures, and could be lured by a $150BN package. In reality, they provided a robust tailwind to the Ayatollahs’ ballistic missile program and their military expansion to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, placing their machetes at the throat of all pro-US Arab regimes.

In 2020, the wishful-thinkers still don’t accept the reality that Iran’s Ayatollahs are not partners to Western style negotiations and peaceful-coexistence, but are motivated by the fundamentals of Islam, which wishful-thinkers consider archaic and irrelevant.  The Ayatollahs consider Islam the only legitimate religion, divinely-ordained to rule the globe, while “infidels” must submit themselves peacefully or militarily. While they may sign agreements with “infidels,” they consider them non-binding, temporary truces until sufficient power is gained to overcome the “infidel” and advance their megalomaniacal goal of ruling the Persian Gulf, Middle East, Asia, Africa and the rest of the globe.

In 2020, the isolationist wishful-thinking school of thought has yet to realize that in the global village, the agenda of Shite and Sunni Islamic terrorism is not limited to the Middle East, but is global in nature.  Thus, Iran has become an epicenter of ballistic and nuclear capabilities and terrorism, which proliferate throughout the globe. Moreover, Iran’s Ayatollahs are increasingly entrenched in South and Central America (the trilateral border of Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay and the trilateral border of Chile-Bolivia-Peru), bolstering their presence in Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, and establishing sleeper cells in the US. They plan a campaign of anti-US terrorism, which will dwarf 9/11, since they consider the US the most effective obstacle on the road to advance their global Islamic vision.

In 1987, Country Western star, George Strait, warned against the temptation of wishful-thinking: “I got some ocean front property in Arizona… if you’ll buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”



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