Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called for far-reaching NATO reforms to combat Islamic extremism, including expansion of the alliance membership to include Israel, Japan and Australia. The appeal came in an article published Thursday.
Writing for the Jerusalem Issue Brief series of the Jerusalem-based Institute for Contemporary Affairs, Aznar said "it is imperative to defend our values and way of life against a new threat: Islamic extremism and terrorism." The article was based on a presentation he made at the institute on March 16.
To transform NATO from a military alliance against the now-extinct Eastern bloc into a force that can counter the current threat, he wrote, "NATO must refocus itself on fighting terror, the major threat today. Indeed, this is an existential threat."
Aznar wrote that the alliance, formed in the aftermath of World War II to counter the rise of the Soviet Union and its allies, must shift away from its geographic definition and "widen its membership, open its doors to those nations that share our values, that defend them on the ground, and that are willing to join in the fight against jihadism. Thus, NATO should invite Japan, Australia and Israel to become full members."
"NATO must come to terms with the new strategic realities, that we are at war, because our foes have declared it upon us," Aznar wrote.
In an apparent reference to al-Qaida, he wrote, "They could be hiding in a cave far away, but their vision is crystal clear. They want to recreate the caliphate from Spain to the Philippines. They want a fundamentalist reading of Islam to be the ruling law."
Aznar, who served as prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004, wrote that NATO must change its strategic concept, working inside the borders of its members instead of concentrating on external threats.
"We cannot say that today the front between internal and external security has become blurred and at the same time keep all the administrative and institutional barriers separating them," he wrote. "Furthermore, we must understand that jihadism is a global movement in its scope, with different levels of expression, from car bombs to radical sermons in mosques, Internet sites, and TV stations."
Aznar wrote that Israel is the target of Islamic extremism with the ascension of Hamas to power in the Palestinian areas. He said NATO should extend its protection to Israel, also as a way of deterring Iran, which has called for Israel's destruction and is, Aznar wrote, clearly pursuing nuclear weapons.
"The West cannot fight this radical tide without Israel. Israelis might decide that for their own security they had better follow the traditional policy of relying just on themselves," he wrote. "But Islamic extremism is more a tsunami than a tide, and in front of this powerful force we better stand together."