Iran Israel Crisis – Part Two

September 10, 2008

(Part one of this post is here.)


Rafi Eitan wants Iran’s president Ahmedinejad kidnapped…


According to Haaretz. A strange suggestion to say the least. But these things happen in the Middle East.


Rafi Eitan has told Der Spiegel that the Mossad should snatch the gangleader of Iran from his den (maybe those are the words that he’d like to use), and spirit him to The Hague, so that he can be tried for his bloodthirsty intentions.


Mr. Eitan is entitled to his opinion. But such ideations are not very likely to enhance the credibility of Israel.



The Iran-Israel issue is a classical example of the politics of fear. It’s clear, at least to me, that neither side has the slightest advantage in escalating the situation into an actual conflict, since neither Israel nor Iran have the materials at hand to bring such a conflict into a decisive conclusion.


In the case of Israel, since even a complete success in destroying all of the achievable targets in Iran would not be enough to end the Iranian leadership’s aspirations of acquiring nuclear technology, it’s quite possible that the Israelis would eventually have to repeat their strike sometime in the future. Iran has a ready supplier of nuclear know-how in Russia, and plenty of petrodollars to pay them. One must bear in mind that Iran is not Iraq: they have not so far attacked any of their neighbours, and they’re not isolated. An attack is also likely to harden the attitude of Iranians, and prolong the life of the regime there, which is not showing any signs of weakening, in my opinion.


But much more importantly, Israel would have committed a grave political error in putting itself in the world’s spotlight as an aggressor. Right now, with the international community in consensus that the Iranian nuclear program is unacceptable, Israel’s position is, in effect, endorsed by the whole world. What would an attack achieve in this respect? It would place Iran in the position of the victim, and very quickly reverse Israel’s position from being that of the accuser, to that of the condemned. In the absence of any immediate threat, and no proof at all that Iran’s nuclear program is close to producing actual weapons, what would be the achievement of an attack on Iran?


It’s true that the Americans are now on Israel’s side. But it’s folly to think that the US will remain the single dominant force in the world forever, and it’s also rash to think that the present administration’s almost unequivocal support will be permanent. Prudent policy requires preparation for changing circumstances, and by placing all their bets on continued American dominance, Israelis are playing a gamble that may not be as profitable as they seem to think today.  


Arguably, the Iranian regime is not as introverted, ideologically strict, economically isolated, hopeless or abnormal as that in North Korea. Iran has dissidents; North Korea has none. Iran has wide reaching economic relations with the world; North Korea has almost nothing. Iran’s regime doesn’t face any credible threat of an imminent collapse; North Korea is often dependent on energy and food aid for caring for its citizens. North Korea isn’t suicidal, then why would we expect Iran to behave in a suicidal manner? The list could go on.


So one has to ask the simple question:


If the world is able to live with a nuclear North Korea, why is it unable to live with a potentially nuclear Iran?


Any action on the international stage must be based on careful analysis of feasibility and profit. An Iran War is likely to be highly costly, with unseen consequences, and doubtful benefits. The diplomatic solution is the only alternative.


But the gridlock arises because both sides allow their emotions to guide their choices, instead of following the dictates of logic. Iran is adamantly adhering to its “no compromises” attitude, while in truth, dismantling the nuclear program in exchange for powerful technological incentives could be highly beneficial to both the survivability and prestige of the regime. Unfortunately, they’re afraid of suffering the fate of Saddam Hussein, and I believe that a desire to acquire nuclear weapons is at least not far from somewhere in the back of their minds.


Israel, on the other hand, is afraid that the favorable status quo in the Middle East will be disrupted if it loses its position as the sole nuclear power of the region. It is also afraid of the resurgence of Iran: with greater revenues from high oil prices, and increased leverage in international politics as a result, Iran has the potential to be more than a headache for Israel. But how much actual military power can Iran hope to apply to realise any of its goals? The fragile balance of power in the Middle East has powerful sponsors, and both Israel and Iran are fully aware of how far they can go. In the case of Iran, a wrong move is unlikely to find any sympathizers at all. But Israel has its back against the US, and, ironically, its perception of the solidity of American support may lead it to wrong moves. Israel should realise that its present invincibility should be used to build a basis for future peace and prosperity, and should allow the regime in Iran to run its natural course: it’s hard to expect that in this age of the open society, the Iranian people will want to remain under the rule of clerics forever. In any case, Israel has enough troubles on its borders, what benefit does a state of permanent belligerence bring?


One Response to “Iran Israel Crisis – Part Two”

  1. hass said

    Considering that an Israeli general had to run away from teh UK because there was an arrest warrant out on him, Israel had better mind its own store. Ahmadijejad’s alleged “intentions” are nothing compared to Israel’s actual conduct.

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