By: S P Seth
An important reason why Israel keeps exaggerating Iran’s nuclear threat is its need to distract the world from the inherent dangers of an unresolved Palestinian issue. They want the world to forget about Palestine, and concentrate on the Iranian nuclear issue as the most dangerous for the world .
The talks last month between Iran and five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany did not make much headway. They will, reportedly, be meeting again this month in Istanbul to grapple with the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, although the divide between them on the issue remains as wide as ever.
Iran insists that its programme is for legitimate peaceful uses. But the western countries do not believe this, and want Iran to dismantle its nuclear programme. China and Russia too go along with this proposition but they are not prepared to punish Iran as part of a reverse global jihad. They are not prepared to risk their investments in oil sector (in the case of China), and nuclear energy reactors in the case of Russia, among other things. The four rounds of international sanctions against Iran have not brought it to its heels, though they are hurting the country.
With Iran determined not to give up its nuclear programme, and the US and its western allies equally determined to impose their will, where will all this end up? The US is apparently following a multiple strategy. They are encouraging and fomenting internal political unrest, putting their best bet on the opposition to the regime from within the clerical establishment and the new urban middle class.
The opposition had come close to capturing power in the last elections. They were cheated of it, by some accounts, through organised thuggery by the regime. It might seem tempting to believe that the opposition will be more conciliatory on the nuclear question, if it were to gain power. With the country facing enormous economic problems from inflationary pressures to rising unemployment, aggravated by international sanctions, this might be the only sane course for them to pursue in the circumstances.
However, it is unlikely that any Iranian government will agree to dismantle the country’s nuclear programme. It is very much a matter of national dignity and pride. Hence, any concessions most likely will be of a tactical nature. In any case, there is no sign that the government is in any immediate danger, even though it has lately become vulnerable to organised internal political dissent and opposition. And it seems so worried that it is launching a total overhaul of its education and training programmes to weed out ‘baneful’ western influences and replace them with ‘wholesome’ Islamic values.
Apart from bolstering up political opposition to the regime within the country, the US probably is also channelling material assistance in support of the separatist Sunni rebellion in the Sistan-Balochistan province. This predominantly Sunni region is plagued by periodic bombing attacks which the regime blames on a mix of internal and foreign elements, including the US and, sometimes, even Pakistan because of the shared ethnicity of the Baloch population on both sides of the border in this region.
The Kurds are another separatist ethnic minority in Iran that has taken to bombings at times in Kurdistan province. All these ethnic minorities are considered the natural allies of the US when it comes to destabilising the clerical regime in Iran.
The problem, though, is that nothing seems to be working to derail or slow down Iran’s nuclear programme. Lately, there have been attempts to infect Iran’s nuclear programme through computer viruses, which has certainly done some temporary damage. At the same time, some of its top nuclear scientists have been killed mysteriously. It is difficult to pin down the elements of this mystery, but Iran might not be entirely wrong in pointing an accusing finger at the US and Israel.
Israel opposes Iran’s nuclear programme vehemently. Iran’s nuclear status will challenge its regional supremacy as the only country in the Middle East with nuclear armoury. It also propagates the argument that Iran’s example will encourage other Middle Eastern countries to follow its example and thus lead to nuclear proliferation. But it should have thought of it first when it introduced nuclear weapons in the region. For some mysterious reason, these are sacrosanct. They neither have to be publicly declared nor denied.
From the leaked WikiLeaks’ cables, we also know that Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and some of the Persian Gulf kingdoms, are also against Iran’s prospective nuclear status; with the Saudi king going as far as advising the US to cut off the head of the Iranian snake (that is to say, bomb its nuclear installations). This reflects the old sectarian divide between the largely Sunni Arab kingdoms and predominantly Shia Iran, with a nuclear Iran likely to further complicate the Middle East’s geopolitical picture.
Israel is obviously happy that it is not the only country in the Middle East that is opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Indeed, it would like the world to do more than simply apply sanctions because they are not as effective.
Well, we all know that Israel favours bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, as it did with Iraq about 30 years ago. But it would like the US backing and support in this undertaking. Better still, it would like the US to do it to escape the resultant wrath and punishment, if things somehow did not go according to plan. Indeed, Tel Aviv had reportedly pressured President Bush in the last days of his presidency, but his disastrous forays into Iraq and Afghanistan had cautioned him against another potential military disaster and, possibly, the worst if it were tried.
The point is that even though the Israelis are gung ho about Iran, they do not think that it is within reach of acquiring the technical capability to develop an atomic bomb. According to its deputy foreign minister, “They have not yet reached the technical capability for a nuclear weapon, but if left to their own devices, they will within one to three years.” In other words, Iran will leapfrog all the stages required for acquiring technical capability to make a bomb within a year or more.
An important reason why Israel keeps exaggerating Iran’s nuclear threat is its need to distract the world from the inherent dangers of an unresolved Palestinian issue. They want the world to forget about Palestine, and concentrate on the Iranian nuclear issue as the most dangerous for the world. And if it creates mayhem in the process, so be it. Because: nothing is more important for Israel than being able to permanently annex West Bank and East Jerusalem.
One only hopes that Israel will not be allowed to turn the world into its own destructive lab with the Iranian nuclear issue, as it has done with the Palestine issue.
NOTE:This is a cross post.