Now that the world is once again riveted to the Mid-East, it is time to examine the drums of a more sinister conflict that has been beating there for some time now. I am talking of course about the escalating talks about a possible nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel. Let us start with some relatively open facts:
First, despite the hysteria whipped up by Israel to the contrary, Iran does not yet possess a nuclear weapon. However, this does not mean that the international community is too naïve to understand that Iran is actively pursuing that goal even though they have strenuously denied any intention of doing so.
Secondly, even though Israel is officially not counted or recognized as a nuclear state, anyone would be foolhardy to believe they do not have nuclear capability. Decades long military, economic and intelligence co-operation between Israel and the United States guarantees that the Jewish state is properly spoken for when the subject is nukes. Remember, US tax-payers give foreign aid to Israel to the tune of $3 billion every year. That is enough to help significantly boost her military—in fact Israel and Pakistan are the only countries in the region that ostensibly possess nuclear deterrence.
Lastly, in the mad jostle for military superiority in the Mideast, it is useful to remember that the majority of the Sunni Arab countries in the region harbor deep resentment and suspicion for both Israel and Iran. One is seen as an illegal occupier of Muslim lands and a front for Western imperialists; the other is viewed as a rising over-ambitious regional power (bully) and a possible military threat.
It is against this backdrop that one must carefully weigh these escalating calls for war from both sides of the aisle. If we go down memory lane, we realize that in June 1981 Israel unilaterally acted in attacking and destroying the Iraqi Osirak reactor believed at the time to have been put in place to aid Iraq get nuclear weapons. At the time, Israel was roundly rebuked by the UN Security Council, but that surprise attack critically damaged Iraq’s nuclear program and I do not think that they recovered from that blow ever again. When one sees how empty Saddam Hussein’s military boasts turned out to be during the second US-led invasion of Iraq, it would seem that the verdict of history has been that the Israel’s bold preventive strike was not altogether without great merit.
Now, we are entering the season of saber-rattling again. The leaders of both countries have openly entertained the prospect of war, and from their hard stances it is evident that each side believes that not only would their side emerge victorious in any possible military confrontation, a confrontation so specified may very well be nigh inevitable!
Each side has reasons to be super-confident I suppose:
i)Iran in recent years has increased her economic trade relations with Russia and China to the tune of over $3 billion every year. Since Iran is a strategic business and trade partner of these two countries, we have seen that Russia and China as permanent members of the UN Security Council have repeatedly come to the aid and defense of Iran against US-led acts of containment at the UN. It is even possible to imagine that were the US to carelessly wade into an armed conflict against Iran, the US would have to expect Russia and China to get into it. So, we have seen and heard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cockily dismiss Israeli threats. This however does not mean that Russia and China are not carefully weighing their stance on the whole contentious issue of a nuclear-armed Iran and the possible nuclear race it could spark off in the Middle East.
ii)Israel, rightly or wrongly, believes that her continued existence depends upon Iran never getting a nuclear weapon. Many of the hardline clerics in Iran have openly stated that Israel has no right to exist in the Middle East, and I am sure the Israelis are taking their threats seriously. If we can extrapolate from the sentiments prevalent in Tehran, one might be led to conclude that a nuclear attack against Israel is indubitably in the works whenever Iran finally manages to join the nuclear club.
So, we find ourselves at a nervous impasse. The US does not have formal relations with Iran even though it is determined to see to it that Iran does not enrich uranium to make nuclear weapons. However, the US has been severely weakened militarily from two unfunded and perhaps needless wars in the region; as a matter of fact, she can scarcely afford a third war in the region against Iran in the midst of these current bleak and crippling economic downturns. However, it is easy to imagine that the US can easily wage a proxy war using Israel as her tool. The unfortunate thing for fanatically pro-Israel and neoconservative types who would doubtlessly wish to see that scenario come to pass is that the one man who could easily help to orchestrate this (his name is Obama) is firmly against it. Inasmuch as the Obama administration wants to be seen as friendly to the Jewish state, sources inside the White House have readily confirmed that the relationship between Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is far from gratuitously warm and cordial. It is perhaps because of Obama’s restraining influence on his Israeli partner, and his administration’s emphasis on sanctions and diplomacy, that the soaring rhetoric of war has not reached a deafening crescendo.
At this time, it would seem that Bibi Netanyahu and his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are simply bidding their time as they wait to see the result of the oncoming US elections. I’d hate to say this, but my impression is that this is far from over. If Romney wins the election, the prospect of a US direct or proxy war against Iran exponentially increases; if Obama wins, the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran exponentially increases.
How best should this issue be handled? We’ll just have to wait and see.