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You Are Here: Home » Dossiers and more » Proxy politics in Tel Aviv and in Washington threaten to engulf Middle East conflagration

CSMS Magazine Staff WritersNew Analysis If there were any doubts about an Israeli possible attack on Iran, recent rhetoric coming from Tel Aviv certainly helped to erase these doubts. Two weeks ago, Israel embarked upon a highly publicized military maneuver in the Mediterranean Sea, using strategic bombers made in the USA and flying a distance up to 1000 miles comparable to the distance it would require to reach Iran should Israeli planes decide to fly east. Washington chief diplomacy, Condoleezza Rice, remained cool to the idea of a possible attack on Iran during a recent encounter with an army of journalists questioning on the issue while she was on her way to the NATO headquarters in Brussels. “Israel has the right to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty. And the only way to do it is by constantly testing its military readiness,” Rice declared, answering the journalists. The latest maneuverings were received with alarm throughout the Persian Gulf, and for the first time in many months, we are witnessing a flurry of shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Paris and Tel Aviv. Observers believe this latest move stems from a two-pronged strategy designed to raise the stick on the Iranian leadership by playing psychological warfare on the one hand, and if that fails, then reluctant European allies who, until now, remain coy and aloof on attacking Iran, will be forced to a fait accompli. They will have no choice but to fall into line. But before that happens, the protagonists must show that because of Iranian belligerence, the war of dialectic must be replaced by the dialectic of war.     French “Super Star” president, Nicholas Sarkozy’s dramatic visit to Israel last week was part of the overall effort to put a “positive” or “civilized” face to an eventual bombing of Iran. While European and American diplomats are still talking about raising the level of sanctions already imposed on Iran, former Israeli Defense Minister, now Transport Minister, Shaul Mofaz considered by many as one the most hawkish of the hardliners has been in the forefront in the psychological warfare against Iran. He has been repeatedly quoted as saying that military action against Iran is inevitable.In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, a major mass circulation in Israel, Mofaz was blunt about the Israeli position. “Iran would disappear before Israel does,” he said, referring to threats made by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel. “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective… Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable,” he went on to say.However, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmet, playing responsible statesman, “dismissed” such a scenario. But few believe that Israel will stay idle while Iran is flexing its muscles—military and diplomacy—positioning itself to emerge as the true victor in the vicious proxy war between the major players in the Middle East.Against Israel, Iran has already scored two important victories. First, in 2006 their proxy Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, denied the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) entry into the Lebanese heartland. This was analyzed as a colossal blow to Israel militarism and a stunning victory for Iranian power in the Middle East. Second, shortly thereafter, Hamas, a proxy Palestinian militia for both Damascus and Tehran rooted out their rival Fatah to split the already fragmented Palestinian territory in order to create in effective de facto partition of the Palestinian entity—again a major blow to both Washington and Tel Aviv that have been vividly supporting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.One area and perhaps the most important area of Iranian’s strategic victory is Iraq. In Iraq, Iranian influence is overwhelming. Iran is using its money, its version of Islam (Shiites) and its weapons to finance and coordinate scores of militias fighting the US occupation. As one European diplomat put it, “denying Iranian influence in Iraq could be fatal to the coalition troops.” Can the United States now lunch a military attack on Iran?  Everyone agrees that the United States as a super power can fight multiple wars simultaneously, and attacking Iran now from the US doorstep in Iraq should not be a task of impossible odds. But could it be feasible or winnable both politically and militarily? Few believe it, and there are tangible reasons to back this assertion. In an electoral season where a majority of American voters have already displayed their staunch opposition to the war in Iraq, this would be tantamount to political suicide for the Republicans, who know there can be no swift and decisive victory for the US military following a US invasion of Iran, a country twice the size of Iraq. But if there were no military solution in Iraq now brought to its knees after more than five years of military occupation, it would be highly unlikely that there can be one in Iran in an eventual pitch, conventional battle. There is a great lesson one must learn from the war in Iraq. Destroying a conventional army does not in any way mean achieving military victory. The Iraqi army melted away days before the first US infantry division rolled into Baghdad. Yet, five years later, the end is nowhere in sight.  An attack on Iran by the United States will certainly trigger international outrage. The whole world would be enraged as graphic pictures of decapitated bodies of dead men, women and children would be flashing across television screens. Furthermore, there would be a great potential for a national revolt against another military crusade where the outcome would certainly be quite uncertain. So, if an attack should be mounted against Iran, it is most likely to be coming from Tel Aviv, not Washington; and it appears that there is a broad consensus in Israel for such an attack against Iran. According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel citing Dani Yatom, a retired major general and member of the Israeli parliament for the Labor Party, such scenario is increasingly edging closer to reality. “We no longer believe in the effectiveness of sanctions…A military operation is needed if the world wants to stop Iran,” Yatom emphatically said. Even Israeli historian Benny Morris favors a military solution.   “If the issue is whether Israel or Iran should perish, then Iran should perish.”But an Israeli military strike does not assure a complete take-out of Iran’s nuclear program—something Tehran claims to be developing for civilian use only.  At least that is what most observers believe. The Iranians have learned from history. They are acutely aware of Israel’s preemptive military capability; so what can be detected from satellite imagery may not necessarily be the true meaning of an Iranian nuclear program.      Based on this argument, the Europeans have been pushing their own initiative to avert a potential military catastrophe in the Persian Gulf. European Union Foreign Secretary Javier Solana delivered a “Proposal to Iran” on behalf of the US, Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the European Union two weeks ago in which Iran is required to “suspend its [uranium] enrichment and reprocessing activities” and agree to allow UN inspectors to its nuclear facilities under the full control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, a carrot had to be introduced to induce Iran into taking this bitter pill. The major powers simultaneously offered to help Iran “develop a nuclear power industry—supplied with fuel from outside the country—along with “steps towards the normalization of trade and economic relations.”Iran has rejected this proposal, for it saw it as a gross infringement upon its sovereignty and another sneaky attempt aimed at preventing it from acquiring the “Islamic bomb,” should it decide to build one some day. But Iran has consistently maintained that its Natanz plant is being built to generate low-enrichment fuel for nuclear power plants. And despite all the rhetoric, there is no evidence proving otherwise. Remember last December when the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) issued an assessment on Iran, saying that Iran had not had a nuclear weapons program since 2003? And the report continued to affirm that even if Iran did, it would be in no position to craft a nuclear bomb, not until at least 2015. Moreover, the last IAEA report in May brought no evidence of an Iranian’s pursuit of nuclear weapons since 2004.So, it is conceivable that Iran will continue to oppose international inspections, and the Israeli barrage of threats will continue to escalate. The question remains: how long can this go on without switching the cold, proxy war into a potentially devastating hot one?    Also see Does the US military intend to stay indefinitely in Iraq? Moqtada al-Sadr: The terrible headache to US plan in Iraq Iraq: The beat goes on and on  The execution of Saddam Hussein: Was justice served?

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