Experts on Iran took part in a unique round-table discussion on Tuesday at the Herzliya Conference, holding a simulation game posing what would happen the day after a deal between Iran and the West on the Islamic regime's nuclear program.
In Geneva on Tuesday, the US and Iran held a second day of talks ahead of a July deadline for a nuclear deal, giving the simulation an added sense of urgency.
In the first section of the simulation game, experts discussed Iranian military activity in Syria amid the civil war now stretching into its fourth year there. In the second part, the participants explored the potential of Iran making a grab at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to expand its power and capture oil reserves.
The experts examined the roles of various countries, including Israel, the US, China, Saudia Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Russia and Iran, anticipating how they would react to various situations.
The conclusion reached by the experts was that any deal with Iran must have careful means to prevent the Islamic regime from not only achieving nuclear weapons, but also causing major regional instability.
Dr. Shaul Shay of IDC Herzliya's Institute for Policy and Strategy summed up the considerations, saying “what are the red lines regarding Iranian activities in Syria? What is unacceptable for Israel or the United States?”
Iran must be made to know that its nuclear program "is not a shield" against world powers reacting to Iranian breaches of regional order, noted former US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Gary Samore.
"Just because the nuclear file is on track does not mean we are indifferent to Iran trying to dominate the region," remarked the American representatives. "Iran has not been given a hand to act badly in other respects, even if it lives up to terms of the agreement."
Prof. Wang Suolao, director of Peking University's Center for Middle East Studies, remarked that China would likely welcome a deal between Iran and the world powers. Suolao's remarks at the conference, separate from the simulation, can be seen here:
Representing the Russian view on the issues was Prof. Sergey A. Karaganov, Honorary Chairman Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of Russia.
"A nuclear Iran is not that big a danger for Russia...but it is a danger for regional peace," remarked Karaganov. He added that the Russian relation with America would greatly influence the nation's reactions to Iran.
Iran would potentially harm its interests by sending missiles to Syria, as it would create greater tension with Saudi Arabia and within the Iranian government, said Meir Javedanfar of IDC Herzliya, who represented Iran in the simulation.
Additionally, missiles have reportedly been destroyed in Syria by foreign countries, said Javedanfar, noting the risk to Iranian weaponry by taking such a move.
Rafael Bardaji, former Spanish National Security Adviser, said that the European Union (EU) and NATO was primarily concerned for its own safety, and how an Israeli strike on Iran might impact Europe.
As far as steps against Iran, Bardaji said the US has always led Europe from the "front seat," adding "we don’t know how to be led from behind." The line is a reference to US President Barack Obama's foreign policy as stated by an aide.
Israel, for its part, would not be relying on the US to monitor Iran, according to Zalman Shoval, former Israeli Ambassador to the US. He said Israel would be the "watch dog of the watch dog" after any agreement, since the Iranian nuclear threat is felt much more immediately in Israel than in the US.