The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Any attempt to facilitate arms control in the Middle East depends to a large degree on the policies of Iran, Israel, and the United States. The three countries are destined to play a pivotal role in the envisaged disarmament process with the ultimate goal of establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone. The conflict about Iran’s nuclear program is one of the major stumbling blocks. Israel and the Arab states feel (to divergent degrees) threatened by Tehran and are therefore highly unlikely to accept arms control steps, if Iran does not restrain its nuclear program significantly and convincingly. This requires an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program and allows for far-reaching verification measures. In this connection the United States comes into play. The U.S. is considered by Iran to pose the number one threat. Finding cooperative measures to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan and the offer of negative security guarantees would be appropriate steps to tackle Iranian threat perceptions. However, given the belligerent rhetoric of Tehran and the enormous level of distrust between Iran and Israel, the latter can hardly be expected to believe in Tehran’s trustworthiness. In addition to the dissatisfying state of the multilateral peace process this is another reason for Israel to sit on its nuclear capabilities that would be part and parcel of the disarmament agenda. Again, the U.S. can play a pivotal role by refocusing its foreign policy on advancing the peace process––as a parallel track to the disarmament negotiations––and giving Israel security guarantees.