TEL AVIV — World War III almost broke out at Tel Aviv University last week, though cooler heads prevailed in the end.
The simulation game was formulated by the Lab for Policy and Security Simulations (SIMLAB) in conjunction with the Yuval Ne'eman Workshop and the university's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African studies. The game opened with provocative remarks from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who proclaimed, "If ISIS will continue its advances against holy Shi'ite cities, Iran will not hesitate to use every force in its power against ISIS and the areas under its control."
"Israel will have to break free of its prejudices regarding threats from both old and new enemies in the region."
Achieving such a challenging goal will require a more nuanced approach, said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center.
"We need to know how to use the scalpel and not the hammer," Rabi said during the simulation.
When dealing with "failed states, primordial identities, cyberwar and nuclear weapons," Israel must be "humble" in its approach and look for a common denominator with its Arab neighbors, not a broad-based coalition to bring about peace, he said.
"Don't talk about peace, don't talk about a regional agreement, what we have to look for is a way to cooperate with my enemy's enemy," he explained.
"Creating a coalition of moderate Sunni states could counter ISIS as well as other extremist nonstate actors. Further, it may help embolden the weaker links in the chain of moderate state actors. As the simulation demonstrated, Jordan may be one such crucial link," said Sommer.
"The big question now is if the US and Israel will be able to take the next step to involve additional countries like the UAE and the Saudis, who closely followed the events in Gaza last summer" he added, "and whose interests are in many respects surprisingly aligned with Israel vis-à-vis Iran and extremist elements."
The simulation mirrored the complexity of current Middle East dynamics, and while attaining such a collation is in the interests of many players, its prospects are "unclear."
"The prospects of such a moderate Sunni coalition are unclear, however, as American strategy against extremists in Iraq and Syria becomes increasingly reliant on Iranian fighters or Iranian-backed militiamen," he said.