The Iranian population is the most pro-American in the region, owing to the disastrous economic consequences of the Islamic revolution. A sea change in its leadership is a matter of when, not if. But a soft landing in Iran—rather than a violent counter-revolution, with the besieged clergy resorting to terrorism abroad—might be possible only if general amnesty is promised for those officials guilty of even the gravest human-rights violations.
Achieving an altered Iranian foreign policy would be vindication enough for dismantling the regime in Iraq. This would undermine the Iranian-supported Hizbollah, in Lebanon, on Israel's northern border; would remove a strategic missile threat to Israel; and would prod Syria toward moderation. And it would allow for the creation of an informal, non-Arab alliance of the Near Eastern periphery, to include Iran, Israel, Turkey, and Eritrea. The Turks already have a military alliance with Israel. The Eritreans, whose long war with the formerly Marxist Ethiopia has inculcated in them a spirit of monastic isolation from their immediate neighbors, have also been developing strong ties to Israel. Eritrea has a secularized population and offers a strategic location with good port facilities near the Bab el Mandeb Strait. All of this would help to provide a supportive context for a gradual Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. A problem with the peace plan envisioned by President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in the summer of 2000, was that coming so soon after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, it was perceived by many Arabs as an act of weakness rather than of strength. That is why Israel must be seen to improve its strategic position before it can again offer such a pullback.
Of course, many Palestinians will be unsatisfied until all of Israel is conquered. But in time, when no Israeli soldiers are to be seen in their towns, the seething frustration, particularly among youths, will turn inward toward the Palestinians' own Westernized and Christianized elites, in Ramallah and similar places, and also eastward toward Amman.
In regards to Jordan and our other allies, U.S. administrations, whether Republican or Democratic, are simply going to have to adapt to sustained turbulence in the years to come. They will get no sympathy from the media, or from an academic community that subscribes to the fallacy of good outcomes, according to which there should always be a better alternative to dictators such as Hosni Mubarak, in Egypt; the Saudi royal family; and Pervez Musharraf, in Pakistan. Often there isn't. Indeed, the weakening of the brutal regime of Islam Karimov, in Uzbekistan, will not necessarily lead to a more enlightened alternative. It could just as likely ignite a civil war between Uzbeks and the ethnic Tajiks who dominate the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Because Uzbekistan is demographically and politically the fulcrum of post-Soviet Central Asia, those advocating "nation-building" in Afghanistan should realize that in the coming years there could be quite a few more nations to rebuild in the region. For this reason some in the Pentagon are intrigued by a basing strategy that gives us options throughout Central Asia, even if some countries collapse and we have to deal with ethnic khanates.