Israel-Iran: The Myth of ‘Wider Conflagration’
Tensions are running high after the IAEA reported that Iran’s hard-line regime, far from buckling under the pressure of sanctions, has actually stepped up its weapons-grade nuclear enrichment program. With talks between the IAEA and Tehran producing “no concrete results” since January, and Tehran closing in on a nuclear weapons capability, reports from Israel suggest Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has finally lost patience with the failed diplomatic process and is “determined” to strike Iran’s nuclear sites before November’s U.S. election.
If or when military action might take place is not our chief concern here. However, the rush of Western politicians and commentators spreading alarm of apocalyptic consequences should Israel believe it has no choice but to adopt the military option is. Any assertion that the only fall-out from military action to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be ‘wider conflagration across the Middle East’, even World War III, is demonstrably false.
“The summer has an ominous feel, like August 1914″, says Michael Burleigh, author of Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, in the UK Daily Mail. Writer and journalist Max Hastings states that an attack would lead to “open-ended conflict” between Iran and the West. Hastings warns that if the Iranians mined the Straits of Hormuz, the West would enter “a long dark tunnel”. Last of all, failed former UK Tory Party leader Michael Howard asserts: “The only thing worse than the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons would be the consequences of using force to stop them”. What all have in common is an illusory sense of how an enfeebled Iranian economy could wage a meaningful campaign against “the West”, and how taking the military option leaves Israel with no right to self-defence.
Okay, so let’s look at the political realities.
The fact is that Shia Iran is an isolated and ailing economy with no friends other than Syria in the predominantly Sunni Middle East region. We need to bear in mind that, historically, there is no love lost between Shia and Sunni Islam. We need only look at the murderous conflict between the two in Iraq. In response to an attack against Iran’s enrichment facilities, young hotheads would certainly take to the streets to burn Israeli and US flags and effigies to call for jihad. Their leaders, from Riyadh to Cairo to Amman would, however, quietly be breathing a sigh of relief that someone had finally ended Iranian nuclear regional ambitions that could well see a nuclear-armed Iran targeting them, not just Israel.
As the Pentagon’s Wiki-leaks emails revealed only too clearly, Iran’s neighbors, deeply suspicious of Tehran’s ideological regional ambitions (and not just as regards Israel), have privately been urging a U.S. military resolution of the Iranian nuclear program for years. And Russia may have helped build Iran’s nuclear facility at Bushehr but, as we reported in Has Russia Sold Out Iran for a Stake in Israeli Gas?, for all its public bluster, Moscow appears already to have sold its partners down the Moskva. In short, in the event of a strike on its nuclear facilities, Iran would stand alone.
Equally, as we have shown elsewhere, fears of an attack creating an oil scarcity, should Iran’s global contribution be interrupted, are entirely groundless. While any interruption in Iran’s energy exports and the effect of a regional conflict would temporarily spike world oil prices, sanctions have already effected a significant reduction in Iranian energy exports. Also, any attempt by Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s oil passes, would quickly be prevented – as it was during the Iran-Iraq War in the 80s – by the arrival of U.S. warships. No doubt the Pentagon has plans in place for just such an eventuality.
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has long boasted of the pursuit of uranium enrichment and the goal of “wiping Israel off the map” in the same speeches. It’s a threat that is plainly national policy. In February this year, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in a speech in which he insisted Iran was determined to persist in its quest for nuclear capability, went on to say: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed”. Shamefully, much of the Western media reported the nuclear reference but chose to omit the repeated threat to Israel. As recently as August, Iran’s envoy to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement(1) in Tehran, “Our enrichment activities will never stop.”
As we have consistently said over four year now, sanctions were doomed to fail given the fanatical ideological nature of the world’s chief sponsors of state-terrorism. Yet the response of western leaders, once again, has been to ramp up sanctions. The IAEA’s evidence is clear enough: Iran is approaching its weapons-grade uranium enrichment goal. Israel clearly has the right to self-defence. In the case of potential nuclear attack that clear the way for pre-emptive action. As Israel’s PM Netanyahu asked rhetorically on the historic remembrance of September 11, “The World asks us to wait. Wait for what? Wait till when?”
Anyone who still believes that a country sitting on top of the world’s second largest reserves of oil and gas is fast-tracking nuclear capacity for domestic power purposes is clearly living in cloud cuckoo land. The Israelis share no such fantasy. And for them, unlike for armchair Western commentators, sitting back and waiting for Iran to achieve the nuclear means to carry out its stated goal is not an option.
Whatever view we may take of a nuclear-armed Islamist Iran and Israel’s right to self-defence through pre-emptive action, the alarmist argument constantly invoked by Western political commentators – fear of a wider conflagration – simply aren’t credible.
We point out once again that the current crisis amounts merely to a theoretic armchair discussion for most Western commentators. For Israel, however, the bellicose threats (and words must have consequences) of extinction by an ideologically-driven totalitarian regime bent on a final solution to what they openly view as the ‘Jewish problem’ has very clear precedence. And the fomenting of alarm over false consequences by naive hand-wringing Western commentators simply plays into the hands of Mullah-ocracy and its status as the leading sponsors of global terror.
(1)’Non-aligned’ is a thorough misnomer. Anyone familiar with the NAM’s agenda will soon realise it is wholly ‘aligned by one key dual policy: hatred of the United States and Israel.