The war in Iraq has triggered several developments in the Middle East, the most obvious of which has been the enhanced strategic and political position of the US in the region. Even before the war, the US was the main external power in the Middle East, and its quick military victory in Iraq reinforced this. America is now able to strongly influence inter-state relations and has the potential to structure what might be termed a semi-Pax Americana in the Middle East. It should be emphasized, however, that there is a difference between domestic regime developments within states and inter-state relations. These are two different contexts and the notion of Pax Americana is relevant only to the second.
The desire of the neo-conservatives in the US administration to bring about major transformation within societies and states in the Middle East (which served as a central motivation for the War), has recently been presented and defined as "the Greater Middle East Initiative," presupposing a much more ambitious Pax Americana. However, this appears to be an immeasurably more difficult task to achieve than the creation of a more stable order between states. This is not to imply that President Bush's vision of democratization and economic development in the Middle East is not a desirable goal. It is. However, it cannot be accomplished in a short period of time, if at all, and certainly not through outside imposition. It might come only after decades of internal development.
Indeed, imposed from the outside, attempts at democratization might even cause a strong negative reaction, strengthening extreme Islamic radicalism. Such a reaction may destabilize some of the currently stable regimes in the Middle East. Some of them, for example Egypt and Jordan, are not liberal democracies but are still enlightened authoritarian regimes which enjoy political legitimization from their people and are essential to a stable state system in the region.
Furthermore, since the grand vision articulated by the US administration may only be accomplished in the very distant future, there are no American if plans for the short to medium term. This is unfortunate. The US could contribute to a more stable inter-state system in the Middle East, based on the current regimes, rather than by attempt to change the regimes. Two recent demonstrations of American (with European cooperation) success in the region were direct results of the war: the limitations on potentially dangerous developments in Iran and Libya concerning weapons of mass destruction. These are examples of the potential the US has for establishing a stable regional security system. Indeed, a regional security system could eventually emerge but it would require several preconditions: First, the critical role of the US; second, better political relations among the regional states; and finally, a realization by all the parties that such a system could contribute to their vital security and political interests.

Bilateral, Multilateral, Tacit and Formal Security Regimes
Basically, one should distinguish between three categories of security systems. The first is a set of tacit arrangements between pairs of states. The second comprises formal bilateral agreements. The third would be formal bilateral agreements and, in addition, formal multilateral agreements and mechanisms for regulation of strategic and military relationships. The potential for the evolution of a tacit or informal regime is relatively more likely, even in the absence of some of the political preconditions. The emergence of a more formal, institutionalized multilateral system would require much more solid political preconditions.
An additional distinction should be made between what I call a "cooperative security regime", such as the current situation in Western Europe, and a "common" or "normal" security regime, which assumes differences between the parties' security perceptions (and even potential adversarial relationships), and also between their domestic regimes. In the European context, the security regime is predicated on identical or very similar approaches to security, and on similar regimes, social structures, belief systems etc. All of these are necessary to create a cooperative security regime. There is no need for such similarities for the creation of a "normal" security regime. What is required is the understanding of all the parties that they need to regulate their security relationships in such a way as to limit the danger or threat or major crises, of wars, and other types of violence.
A further distinction should be drawn between a security regime and a defense alliance. A defense alliance between states is aimed against an external threat. A security regime on the other hand has to do with the relations between the states within the regime: Creation of joint mechanisms designed to deal in a cooperative manner with security issues which might threaten from within the relations of the parties. Thus the OSCE is a security regime. NATO serves as both a defense alliance against external threats, but in addition it created, though this was not its purpose, a security regime for its members. No one can imagine a war between France and Germany, or France and Spain within the context of NATO or the EU. While the EU is primarily economic and political, it also plays a certain role as a security regime.
As far as Arab-Israeli security relationships are concerned, there have already been, over the past fifty years, a relatively large number of tacit and formal sets of security agreements, many of which ultimately collapsed. Some succeeded however, to stabilize security relationships. At present formal agreements cover part of the Egyptian-Israeli and Israeli-Jordanian security relationships. These are part of the peace treaties between the countries. There used to be formal and some informal agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but these broke down with the outbreak of the second Intifada.
While some of the important elements of a regional multilateral security regime could evolve before the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it appears unlikely that a full scale security system could be agreed upon in the absence of at least some management of this conflict. For example, partial Israeli withdrawals from the territories coupled with limited intermediate agreements between Israel and the PA, etc.

The Geography of a Middle Eastern Security Regime
Another important issue is the geographic delimitation of such a regime. It is possible that different kinds of regimes, or parts of regimes, will apply to different parts of the region. Should Iran be included in such a future security regime? This depends on several factors. For example, the extent to which Iran would continue to be strategically involved in the region and its willingness to become part of regional security regime; the type of security threat Iran poses towards other regional states and its perception of security threats directed at her. Similarly, in practical political and strategic terms, the Maghreb (North African Arab states) lies outside the boundaries of such a security regime. The Maghreb countries have their own internal issues and security concerns, and, in addition, a special relationship with Europe and the Mediterranean concept. Because of this, their inclusion might overburden and complicate the gradual creation of such a regime and by the same token not serve their own security needs. On the other hand, a lot depends on their willingness, or lack thereof, to join a Middle Eastern regime.

The External Powers
A future security regime will be a regional one, but external powers will also play an important role, first and foremost the US. It is already a dominant power (and in some respects a hegemonic one) in the region and it has much more influence on regional inter-state relations than any other external power. For example, efforts to curb the nuclear developments in Iran and the development of weapons of mass destruction in Libya were carried out primarily on the back of the war in Iraq and American projection of power. France, Germany and the UK also played an important role in bringing about the change in Iran's nuclear stance, demonstrating their importance. The UK played a central role in the negotiations with Libya. These two examples serve to show how the European powers could play a constructive role alongside the US (as the leading external power) in the creation of a regional security regime.

Objectives and Possibilities
As mentioned before, many bilateral security arrangements have been agreed over the years between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Some of them contributed to stability, and some collapsed. At present formal limited security regimes exist between Egypt and Israel and between Jordan and Israel. Within the context of the Madrid process, the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) committee was formed, and this operated until 1995. A revival of this body, or a similar one, could serve as a platform for negotiations about the eventual creation of a regional security regime. It is noteworthy that the Road Map provides for reactivation of ACRS. This indicates the understanding that such a body is important for the future stability of the region, and it could ultimately provide part of the system of guarantees for a possible Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
A regional security regime should ultimately combine the different sets of bilateral security arrangements that exist, as well as mechanisms for regional crisis management and arms control. Steps towards that had already been discussed and partly agreed upon in ACRS, but these negotiations should be revived and further advanced.
Within the context of arms control, one of the obvious issues would be the question of restrictions on WMD. Clearly there are deep differences on this question between Israel and some of the Arab states, primarily Egypt. Though the issue has already been extensively discussed, it appears that further elaboration of the subject, and especially in view of the regional changes following the war in Iraq, is called for.
Needless to say, the exact avenues such a regime might take and the content of its various dimensions should be the subject of long, detailed and continuous discussions, learning and debate. Permanent forums should be created to discuss these questions. One might also add that possibly (though by no means necessarily) the very existence of such forums and the emergence of the regime could serve as an important input into advancing political relations among the parties.

Additional Possibilities
The eventual creation of a Middle East security regime should not preclude formal security relationships between regional states and external powers. Similarly, it is possible that over time, a regional regime could form formal security connections with other multilateral security structures. It is possible that the Middle East security regime could establish a formal relationship in some matters with NATO or (though this would be less significant) with the OSCE.
Finally, what is important to reemphasize is that the more secure the regional environment is perceived to be by the regional powers, the greater the likelihood that their policies will move towards mutual confidence, eventual compromise and possibly even political cooperation. Such confidence depends, in the first place, on each state's defense capabilities. A regional security regime serves as an additional, and important, building bloc in the self-confidence of all parties.