We all remember 1979. Iran fell to the Mullahs, Russia invaded Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein started a war with Iran. And Islamic radicals took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
The rise of the mullahs in Iran was bad enough, but the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Iraq’s war with Iran bankrupted Saddam so he ordered the invasion of Kuwait to steal its oil.
Even worse, to avoid future terror attacks, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia mistakenly made a deal with the very domestic radical Salafist clerics thought to be sympathetic to the rebels. To control the population, the Sauds agreed to barbaric new observances of Islamic customs concerning clothing, separation of sexes, religious police, and the state paying for da’wa for madrassas world-wide including hundreds of mosques in Europe and North America. Some of these madrassas became centers of terrorist plots.
Note all these historical events remain key to our current security environment. Past geostrategic mistakes thus have consequence, not the least of which are the security threats the current administration is seeking to contain.
The 1979 deteriorating security environment may have at the time propelled four new leaders to power: Pope John the second, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Ronald Reagan. And they subsequently formed a coalition that adopted policies that led to the end of the Cold War, all contrary to conventional wisdom.
Now, nearly 40 years later, are equally momentous events taking place? We have seen the rise of ISIS throughout the Middle East. North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and advanced ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States. Russia has invaded Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia while adopting new nuclear policies and nearly completing an aggressive nuclear modernization effort. China is pursuing an unprecedented nuclear buildup and is expanding its military presence throughout the South China Sea. And Iran remains poised to possibly develop nuclear weapons even as it expands its missile arsenal.
Despite the ominous gathering clouds of nuclear weapons, missiles, terror groups and marching armies, events this past year may be reason for a hopeful look at the future.
First was the destruction of much of ISIS.
Second was President Donald Trump’s trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Third was the reestablishment of a strong relationship between the United States and Israel.
Fourth was the seriously needed recent increase in American defense spending after more than a decade of neglect, coupled with our NATO and Pacific allies finally investing more in defense as well.
Fifth was a series of American policy initiatives on energy, defense, arms sales and diplomacy that further strengthened the emerging coalition in the Gulf and jettisoned significant past policies that were a dead weight on USA Mideast policy.
And sixth — and perhaps most importantly — subsequent to the disappointing reforms spawned by the “Arab Spring”, genuine reform emerged particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and especially led by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which are now just beginning to be appreciated as harbingers of a new paradigm for Middle East peace and the corralling of the world’s terror masters, the mullahs of Iran.
After winning the Cold War, rapprochement with the Russians was the topic of the day and how to spend the peace dividend.
Unfortunately, we now face not the Soviets but a resurgent and dangerous although socially and economically deteriorating Russia. And allied with Iran, Syria, North Korea and China.
Central to defeating the Soviets in the Cold War was the new leadership exemplified by Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Helmut Kohl, the Chancellor of Germany, John II, the new Pope and of course Ronald Reagan, the new president.
Are new and unexpected leaders now emerging that can defeat the Islamic radicals in Iran?
It is too early to tell but the emerging signs are positive. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the prime minister of Israel and the president of Egypt — all allied with a new American President — may be the leaders we seek.
But the central and revolutionary role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may be the most critical of all changes intrinsic to the new policies of the new administration.
In 1981 Iran was in ascendency with Islamic totalitarianism on the rise.
In 2018 a reform coalition led by the KSA may put a new moderate, reformed Islam in ascendency.
In 2018, a new American administration has rejected the conventional peace process and a Palestinian state as central to Middle East peace.
Instead the new administration embraced reform in the Arab world, pushed a cooperative forum with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, and identified the terror master Iran as the central obstacle to Middle East peace along with their associates such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood.
If successful, what might be the positive benefits?
(1) Oil and gas will become simply an ordinary commodity and not a resource leveraged by OPEC.
(2) Economic growth will be spurred by cooperative investment between the USA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, rather than being held hostage to possible cut offs of Gulf oil.
(3) An end to Iran’s role as the world’s top terror master and a subsequent dramatic drop in terrorist activity.
(4) Reform within the larger Islamic world that removes the fuel for terrorist recruitment.
(5) An end to the United States being constantly at war.
Peter Huessy is president of his own defense consulting firm, GeoStrategic Analysis, founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for 22 years.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.