By Elias Akleh*Since 2003 Iran has been coerced into playing a nuclear chess game against US and Israel. Western media outlets have been playing the part of cheer leaders for the American Israeli side, preparing the observing masses for the expected American Israeli â€œcheckmateâ€ move against Iran. Not a single day passes without the description and analysis of a tactical move, with each analysis ending with the question of when, rather than if, the Israelis would bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.
The Israeli moves:
In their annual meeting, on February 18th 2009, The Israeli military leaders had officially declared Iran as their number one strategic enemy in the region, and that the alleged Iranian nuclear arms program constitutes an â€œexistential threatâ€ to the state of Israel. They declared the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat a top priority for the Israeli military and political leaderships.
Yet the Israelis seem to differ in the method of dealing with the Iranian threat. One group, represented by Barak, Netanyahu, Olmert, and Lieberman, called for a military strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities. Such strike, they claim, would at least set the Iranian nuclear program back by ten years. They site Israelâ€™s bombing of Iraqâ€™s Osirak nuclear facility in June 1981, and the bombing of alleged Syrian Al-Kibar nuclear facility in September 2007 as safe and effective solution to any nuclear threat. They claim that since Western countries, especially US, and the neighboring Arab states are opposed to Iranâ€™s nuclear program, Israelâ€™s attack would receive tacit approval, and similar to Iraqi and Syrian bombings Israel would not face any military or political consequences.
The second group, represented by the Israeli intelligence agencies, warns that Israel, alone, is not capable of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, and is in dire need of American help. They remind the Israelis of the events of previous wars such as 1973 war against Egypt and 1982 and 2006 wars against Lebanon, both countries are not as strong as Iran. They recommend that Israel should be only a partner in a joint military strike against Iran.
Third group, represented by Israeli President Shimon Perez, seemingly wants a political solution. Perez stated to George Mitchell, the American special envoy to the Middle East, last April 2009 that Israel has no plans to strike Iran. He urged for an international alliance against Iran to be formed in order to politically deal with the Iranian nuclear program.
Despite Perezâ€™s seemingly political approach the Israeli military leaders are preping the army for a coming strike against Iran. They have purchased and acquired the most sophisticated American fighter planes, 100 advanced LJDAM (Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition) smart bombs, and small tactical (nuclear) bombs. The Israeli army has been testing the Arrow interceptor missile defensive shield in the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the American missile range in the Pacific Ocean west of California. The Israeli air forces sent their F16C fighter jets to participate with the Americans in war exercises, named Red Flag, at American Nillis Air Force base in Nevada, and their C130 Hercules aircraft to compete in the Rodeo 2009 competition at McChord Air Force base in Washington.
The Israeli navy has sent one of its six Dolphin class nuclear missiles carrier submarines accompanied by two Saar class missile boats through Suez Canal ostensibly heading towards the Persian Gulf.
Israeli leaders are crying wolf everywhere they go. Distorting Ahmadinejadâ€™s speeches they declared him the new Hitler, who wants to wipe Israel off the map. They accused Iran of sponsoring terror by arming Hezbollah and Hamas. They keep claiming that Iran is only few months away from building its first nuclear bomb and such a weapon in the hands of the mad Mullahs is an existential threat to Israel. Such a threat, they keep claiming, endangers the whole region including the oil producing Gulf States, and could expand to endanger the rest of the world.
The American moves:
The American administration, on the other hand, seems to favor a diplomatic solution for now. Yet like the previous Bush administration the Obama administration has also declared that all options, including a nuclear military strike, are still on the table if Iran did not respond positively to the diplomatic solution. Obama is also pressuring Israel to freeze its illegal settlements in Palestinian occupied territory, at least for the time being, in order to gain the support of Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, and Gulf States). Putting Israel, the American watchdog in the region, on a leach has always worked to garner the Arab support for attacking a neighboring country.
Although a US National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear arms research program in 2003, Obama issued a deadline of mid September for Iran to respond to the American offer. He had also warned Israel not to surprise his administration with a strike against Iran that might sabotage his diplomatic approach, and could drive the whole region into wider conflict.
At the same time Obamaâ€™s administration had sent Iran many hostile messages such as American determination not to allow Iran to build its bomb, expressing Americaâ€™s strong support and commitment to the security of Israel, supplying Israel with the most advanced weapons and fighter planes, conducting joint military training with the Israelis in preparation for possible strike, having many congressmen and military experts stating openly that an Israeli strike is the only and best solution, sending American aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf to flex its muscles in war games, and openly broadcasting Americaâ€™s own military preparation to strike Iran such as accelerating the development of the largest bomb ever dubbed â€œMOPâ€; Massive Ordnance Penetrator. With its 20 feet long, 30,000 pounds weight, and 5,300 pounds of explosives this bomb is designed to penetrate through 200 feet of hardened surfaces before detonation in order to destroy underground structures such as the Iranian Natanz nuclear facility.
The Iranian moves:
Iran, on the opposite side, is adamant on exercising its own legal right of developing its own peaceful nuclear program similar to any other nuclear member countries in the NPT. Since 2003 Iran had been harassed by the Bush Administration over its nuclear program. Being a member of the NPT the IAEA was sent several times to inspect Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities, but found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Refusing to accept the outcome the Bush administration pushed the UN to impose economical sanction on Iran until it suspends its nuclear program.
In order to address any concern about its nuclear program Iran offered to place additional restrictions on its enrichment program including ratifying the Additional Protocol to allow more stringent inspections by the IAEA, open its nuclear program to foreign private and public participation, and allow the participation of foreign representatives within its Natanz facility among others. But the Bush administration rejected the Iranian offer, pushed the UN to impose the sanctions, and in a threatening move sent American military fleet into the Persian Gulf.
Putting Iran under real existential threat, being surrounded on the four sides by American troops, and continually being threatened by the Israelis and the Americans of being hit by nuclear bombs, Iranians had no choice but to exhibit their deterring muscles through their own war games on land, sea, and air. They also purchased the most sophisticated Russian missiles, and recently had joined the Russian navy in their military maneuvers in the Caspian Sea dubbed â€œRegional Collaboration for a Secure and Clean Caspianâ€.
Besides Russia the Iranians formed an alliance with Syria and Turkey, and gained the support of the Non-Aligned countries, and lately signaled its readiness to improve cooperation with North Korea.
As for the threat of the Israeli strike the Iranians warned that such a strike would only come as a joint effort with the US, and that Iranâ€™s â€œfirm and preciseâ€ response would reach all American assets in the Gulf region and the Israeli nuclear sites.
The real intentions behind the moves:
Israelis know very well that they cannot strike Iran. They fully recognize that decisions concerning the Iranian issue are exclusively American due to Iranâ€™s strength and geopolitical importance in the region. Iran is a large and a strong military country. Economic sanctions did nothing but helped Iranian rely on their own resources. The threats of possible attacks forced the Iranians to strengthen their military forces. Netanyahuâ€™s â€œIran firstâ€, â€œIsraelâ€™s existential threatâ€, and â€œstriking Iranâ€ messages are directed towards the international political community first and towards the Israeli population second.
With the convening of the UN General Assembly this September, Netanyahu is trying to divert and engage the Assemblyâ€™s attention into the alleged Iranian nuclear threat. He hopes that such diversion would not give the Assembly enough time to discuss Israelâ€™s war crimes and human rights violations in Palestine and especially in Gaza Strip as reported by Human Rights Watch groups. Netanyahuâ€™s “Iran first” message is also meant to freeze re-opening any peace negotiations with the Palestinians and to escape American and European pressure to suspend colonial settlements in the West Bank.
Internally Netanyahu, like all previous Israeli Prime Ministers, is manipulating the media to bombard the Israeli population with a propaganda campaign filled with the images of the monstrosity of the enemy (Israelâ€™s existential threat) to incite the feelings of fear and hatred of others and of elitecism (Godâ€™s chosen people) to unite and to rally the Israelis behind his leadership.
Israelis have come from different countries with different nationalities, social norms, backgrounds, and political ideologies. To unite them together Israeli leaders resort to tactics of fear, hatred, elitecism and war to create some type of national bond among them.
The US wants to control all the energy resources in the Middle East and South East Asian regions. The US has firm footings in the Gulf States, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union it started expanding in South East Asia starting with Afghanistan, jumping to Iraq then back into Pakistan. Now Iran is left in between as a gab in the US continuum presence.
The US wants also to control and manipulate the nuclear technology. After securing Indian and Pakistani nuclear bombs and facilities, the US is now directing its attention towards North Korean and Iranian nuclear facilities. It seems hypocritical of the still nuclear arms producing US to deny the Iranians peaceful nuclear technology. This is especially so since the US had agreed to provide India with nuclear fuel for its reactors, and had entered into agreements with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to help them build their own peaceful nuclear facilities.
The US knows very well that it could not stop Iranian nuclear program especially with the present Iranian government. To delay Iranian nuclear program the US is threatening to use the UN to impose economic sanctions not only on Iran alone, but also on countries who would continue dealing with Iran on any level especially those selling refined oil products to Iran. The effectiveness of such sanctions is still to be seen since a lot of countries have trade and business dealings with Iran.
Since the US is heavily involved in at least three open military confrontations, and since many of the American military assets are sitting ducks in the Persian Gulf region for possible Iranian retaliatory strike, and since Iran is a large country that is not weak militarily or been weakened yet by economical sanctions, and since Iran might withdraw from the NPT and might pursue an accelerated nuclear military program if faced with more pressure and more existential threats, the US has no viable solution but to accept Iran as a nuclear country compliant to the NPT and subject to IAEA monitoring.
The nuclear threat or attack of the US, a nuclear country, against Iran, a non-nuclear country, would be a fatal attack on the NPT itself. Other NPT-member countries might withdraw from the treaty and start developing their own nuclear arsenals as a deterrent weapon against nuclear threats from nuclear countries. The NPT would be annulled and nuclear proliferation would become world spread.
An attack, even surgical, on Iran would not happen for it has a catastrophic consequences on the whole world. A draw seems to be the most reasonable endgame.
Accepting Iran as a nuclear country would not stop the US and Israel from supporting terrorist attacks within Iran as they have been doing for the last six years. The two countries have been supporting terrorist organizations such as Mujahedeen Khalg, Jundallah, and Kurdish groups within Iran. These terrorists are responsible for attacks against Iranian military targets, interrupting power and communication lines to the nuclear facilities, and assassinations of some Iranian nuclear scientists such as Ardeshire Hassanpour. The US will also continue funneling American tax money to the Iranian opposition, as was done during the Iranian election (as confessed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an interview with CNNâ€™s reporter Fareed Zakaria) to topple down, to weaken, and to hinder the operation of the Iranian government.
Meanwhile the US is planning to take full advantage of the Iranian threat in the region in order to strengthen its grip on the oil producing Gulf States, and to siphon their oil money into the budgets of the American military companies under the guise of security. Hillary Clinton touched briefly on that plan during a televised interview in Thailand stating that nuclear Iran could be contained by an American so-called â€œdefensive nuclear umbrellaâ€ over the region. The notion of this nuclear umbrella, if there is such a thing, was the brainchild of Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Dennis Ross, then senior editor of Middle East Quarterly in 2004. Of course such an umbrella would be developed, built, and paid for by oil money from the Gulf States.
Clinton in her remark had acknowledged the inevitability of Iran, faced with existential nuclear threats from both US and Israel, gaining a nuclear arsenal, and the inevitable American acceptance of this fact.
* Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.