Dealing with Iran by James Zogby

Dealing with Iran

Monday February 06, 2012

by James Zogby of the Arab American Institute
If we are to believe what we are hearing and reading from a variety of confirmed and unconfirmed sources, in Israel and the U.S., some day in the next few months we may wake up to the news that Israel has bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities. Or maybe not.

The Israelis appear to be deeply divided on the issue, sending mixed signals, almost daily, about their intentions, their capacity to execute such a mission, and even whether or not Iran’s reputed program poses an imminent danger.

The U.S. is tied up in knots of its own making. Being in the throes of an election, no one wants to appear critical of Israel. And so while concerned with the consequences of a unilateral Israeli strike, statements from official Washington or from presidential aspirants range from hand-wringing and feigned powerlessness to full-throated support for any action Israel may take.

Last week’s New York Times Magazine had a feature piece arguing that Israel’s calculations as to whether or not they should go forward with a strike against Iran would be based on answers to a series of questions—whether they thought they could; whether they could withstand the “blow-back”; whether they could count on at least tacit American support; etc. With the answers to all of the above in the affirmative, Israelis might go forward with an attack.

For their part, the Iranians, apparently loving the attention they are receiving, have engaged in provocative actions of their own and their fair share of rhetorical excess. Lost in this deadly game are a number of serious issues that should be considered—but, in all probability will not be.

In the first place, the matter of whether or not Iran is on a trajectory to build a bomb is not an incidental one. The last IAEA report, despite efforts to mischaracterize its findings, was not conclusive. At best, it hedged.

Next to consider is the exact nature of the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. While Israel projects itself as facing an “existential” challenge from Iran, this is hyperbolic nonsense. An Iranian attack on Israel would amount to Iran signing its own death warrant. It is a horror even to imagine, but the reality is that a nuclear attack anywhere in Israel, would murder tens of thousands of innocents, Jews and Arabs, with radiation fallout spreading death and deformity over a wide radius that would infect hundreds of thousands more in the neighborhood (depending on the wind, to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or the occupied Palestinian lands). In other words, in the aftermath of any attack, not only would Iran be destroyed, but its fate would be sealed forever in the Arab and Muslim world—a consideration that could not be lost on the regime’s leadership.  The bottom line: there is no “first use”.

Iran’s real intention is the dangerous game of bragging rights. And their target audience is across the Gulf. Their recent effort to recast the “Arab Spring” as an “Islamic Awakening” being led by the Islamic Republic provided a case in point. Hoping that no one would notice their own brutal repression of their home-grown democracy movement and their support for the bloody crackdown against the uprising in Syria, the Iranians still seek to prey on Arab anger at the West projecting themselves as being in the vanguard of Arab revulsion at the excesses of imperialism and Zionism.

If this is the game, then Israeli saber-rattling and American outrage play right into Iran’s hand. By exaggerating the threat posed by this regime, by pretending that it is a menace equal to Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union, the West succeeds only in giving the Iranians what they want most—an inflated sense that they are a real power to be feared.

Make no mistake, the regime in Tehran is a meddlesome menace and their aspirations for regional hegemony do pose a threat, not to Israel (which serves more Iran’s foil, then its target, and vice versa), but to the Arab Gulf States—whose concerns are rarely, if ever, considered in U.S. political discourse.

My concern is that the escalating rhetoric by all sides poses a danger, in itself. The region is a tinderbox, and it is as if everyone is too busy playing with matches to think of the consequences of their behavior.

Better than threats, which only serve to embolden Iran, I would suggest a combination of direct engagement (which has been tried too little), continued targeted sanctions (which are having a real impact) and a bit of ridicule. What, one might ask the leaders of Iran, will they do with their nuclear program and their provocation? Can it feed their people, rebuild their neglected and decayed infrastructure, give hope to their unemployed young, or secure their role in the community of nations? Rather than play their game, reduce them down to size. Look at the region, as it is. As democracy movements advance in North Africa, and as the Gulf States make significant progress, providing a model for development and growth, Iran remains trapped in an archaic system which feeds off of fear and anger, and goes nowhere.

There are lessons to be learned in order to avoid a confrontation from which no one will emerge a winner. Those in the U.S. who point to Israel’s 1981 strike against Iraq, conveniently ignore the fact that Saddam emerged undeterred. The next two decades witnessed Iraq and Iran engaging in an orgy of blood-letting, in part leading to Iraq’s fatal occupation of Kuwait and all that followed. Then there were Israel’s repeated invasions, occupations and bombardments of Lebanon which only devastated that country, leading to the emergence and empowering of Hizbollah. Or Israel’s war and strangulation policy against Gaza which only resulted in death and destruction, increasing bitterness and a deepening Palestinian divide, making the search for peace more difficult.

The point is that it would be wise to call a halt to the escalating rhetoric for an attack on Iran; recognize the real danger posed by Iran to its own people and to its neighbors; stop enabling the Israeli and Iranian game of “chicken” with each other, when the unintended consequences of their continued dance with death will be felt not only by themselves, but by so many others; and develop a sane approach to dealing with a problem that must be faced and can’t simply be bombed or threatened away.


2 thoughts on “Dealing with Iran by James Zogby

  1. Half truth on Iran and rest western Libyan-type propaganda lies on Syria.

    In case of Israeli attack on Iran – AIPAC recently told its members that Israel would rather let the US ith its far better military power to attack Iran on Israel’s behalf.

    Syrian forces are not killing civilians. They are killing insurgents trained and armed by the US, France, Israel, turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These insurgents are killing military officials and the civilians. The numbers of 5,000 plus civilian killed are provided by a London-based Syrian exiles who are funded by Israel-Firster David Cameron’s government.

    Bashar al-Assad is being thrashed because he is cruel – but because he is supportive of Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran. US-Israel want a regime change in Damascus to replace Assad with a pro-Israel dictator.

    Like Qaddai, Assad is also very popular among his countrymen.

    On January 17, 2012 – Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, head of the Israel Occupation Force (IOF) planing department, told reporters in Jerusalem that once Iran poseses nuclear arsenal, it will make hard for Israel to defeat Hamas and Hizbullah.

  2. The story of a nuclear Iran arming itself is not something that we like to contemplate. Would this threaten Israel’s existence? The answer is emphatically yes although it would only be an extension of the threats already hurled at Israel from Iran and across the spectrum of the Arab world that may only gain power by seizing it and repressing all attempts at free discourse.

    Would Iran use the bomb to attempt to punish Israel? The author above seems to think not suggesting that it would result in Iran’s annihilation in return. The question is why should this matter. It is jihad after all. Martyrdom. So what if Iran is destroyed in return at least the enemy Israel is struck first with horrific results.

    All the time spent in conjecture of course leads to more time to develop and produce such a weapon. It is this time that Iran counts on viewing the West as weak and unable to stand up to those whose determination for mayhem and world dominance cannot be stopped.

    It is the old story of the ruthless destroying the thinkers whose brilliant discussions are cut short like the blade of a knife across the throat.

    Enough talk! Stop Iran now before they strut the world stage holding their nuclear hammer, demanding, demanding and demanding more.

    The operation to destroy the nuclear threat of Iran has been actively pursued and is now being ramped up accordingly.

    Let Iran think the West just talks and talks. One day they will wake up and be not so very surprised and much chagrined. There are more ways to stop this program than are being reported.

    Enough said.

    Stop the madness!

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