American paper posted a scoop this week: Vice-President Dick Cheney,
the King of Hawks, has thought up a Machiavellian scheme for an
attack on Iran. Its main point: Israel will start by bombing an
Iranian nuclear installation, Iran will respond by launching missiles
at Israel, and this will serve as a pretext for an American attack
Not really. It is rather like what happened in 1956. Then France,
Israel and Britain secretly planned to attack Egypt in order to
topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser ("regime change" in today's lingo.)
It was agreed that Israeli paratroops would be dropped near the
Suez Canal, and that the resulting conflict would serve as a pretext
for the French and British to occupy the canal area in order to
"secure" the waterway. This plan was implemented (and failed miserably).
happen to us if we agreed to Cheney's plan? Our pilots would risk
their lives to bomb the heavily defended Iranian installations.
Then, Iranian missiles would rain down on our cities. Hundreds,
perhaps thousands would be killed. All this in order to supply
the Americans with a pretext to go to war.
pretext have stood up? In other words, is the US obliged to enter
a war on our side, even when that war is caused by us? In theory,
the answer is yes. The current agreements between the US and Israel
say that America has to come to Israel's aid in any war - whoever
any substance to this leak? Hard to know. But it strengthens the
suspicion that an attack on Iran is more imminent than people
* * *
Cheney & Co. indeed intend to attack Iran?
I don't know,
but my suspicion that they might is getting stronger.
George Bush is nearing the end of his term of office. If it ends
the way things look now, he will be remembered as a very bad -
if not the worst - president in the annals of the republic. His
term started with the Twin Towers catastrophe, which reflected
no great credit on the intelligence agencies, and would come to
a close with the grievous Iraq fiasco.
only one year left to do something impressive and save his name
in the history books. In such situations, leaders tend to look
for military adventures. Taking into account the man's demonstrated
character traits, the war option suddenly seems quite frightening.
American army is pinned down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even people
like Bush and Cheney could not dream, at this time, of invading
a country four times larger than Iraq, with three times the population.
possibly the war-mongers are whispering in Bush's ear: What are
you worrying about? No need for an invasion. Enough to bomb Iran,
as we bombed Serbia and Afghanistan. We shall use the smartest
bombs and the most sophisticated missiles against the two thousand
or so targets, in order to destroy not only the Iranian nuclear
sites but also their military installations and government offices.
"We shall bomb them back into the stone age," as an American general
once said about Vietnam, or "turn their clock back 20 years,"
as the Israeli Air Force general Dan Halutz said about Lebanon.
tempting idea. The US will only use its mighty Air Force, missiles
of all kinds and the powerful aircraft-carriers, which are already
deployed in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. All these can be sent into
action at any time on short notice. For a failed president approaching
the end of his term, the idea of an easy, short war must have
an immense attraction. And this president has already shown how
hard it is for him to resist temptations of this kind.
* * *
indeed be such an easy operation, a "piece of cake" in American
I doubt it.
bombs kill people. The Iranians are a proud, resolute and highly
motivated people. They point out that for two thousand years they
have never attacked another country, but during the eight years
of the Iran-Iraq war they have amply proved their determination
to defend their own when attacked.
reaction to an American attack would be to close the Straits of
Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf. That would choke off a large
part of the world's oil supply and cause an unprecedented world-wide
economic crisis. To open the straits (if this is at all possible),
the US army would have to capture and hold large areas of Iranian
and easy war would turn into a long and hard war. What does that
mean for us in Israel?
be little doubt that if attacked, Iran will respond as it has
promised: by bombarding us with the rockets it is preparing for
this precise purpose. That will not endanger Israel's existence,
but it will not be pleasant either.
Iranians point out that for two thousand years they have
never attacked another country, but during the eight years
of the Iran-Iraq war they have amply proved their determination
to defend their own when attacked. Their first reaction
to an American attack would be to close the Straits of
Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf. That would choke off
a large part of the world's oil supply and cause an unprecedented
world-wide economic crisis.
If the American
attack turns into a long war of attrition, and if the American
public comes to see it as a disaster (as is happening right
now with the Iraqi adventure), some will surely put the blame
on Israel. It is no secret that the Pro-Israel lobby and its
allies - the (mostly Jewish) neo-cons and the Christian Zionists
- are pushing America into this war, just as they pushed it
into Iraq. For Israeli policy, the hoped-for gains of this war
may turn into giant losses - not only for Israel, but also for
the American Jewish community.
* * *
Ahmadinejad did not exist, the Israeli government would have had
to invent him.
He has got
almost everything one could wish for in an enemy. He has a big
mouth. He is a braggart. He enjoys causing scandals. He is a Holocaust
denier. He prophesies that Israel will "vanish from the map" (though
he did not say, as falsely reported, the he would wipe Israel
off the map.)
the pro-Israel lobby organized big demonstrations against his
visit to New York. They were a huge success - for Ahmadinejad.
He has realized his dream of becoming the center of world attention.
He has been given the opportunity to voice his arguments against
Israel - some outrageous, some valid - before a world-wide audience.
is not Iran. True, he has won popular elections, but Iran is like
the orthodox parties in Israel: it is not their politicians who
count, but their rabbis. The Shiite religious leadership makes
the decisions and commands the armed forces, and this body is
neither boastful nor vociferous nor scandal-mongering. It exercises
a lot of caution.
If Iran was
really so eager to obtain a nuclear bomb, it would have acted
in utmost silence and kept as low a profile as possible (as Israel
did). The swaggering of Ahmadinejad would hurt this effort more
than any enemy of Iran could.
It is highly
unpleasant to think about a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands (and,
indeed, in any hands). I hope it can be avoided by offering inducements
and/or imposing sanctions. But even if this does not succeed,
it would not be the end of the world, nor the end of Israel. In
this area, more than in any other, Israel's deterrent power is
immense. Even Ahmadinejad will not risk an exchange of queens
- the destruction of Iran for the destruction of Israel.
* * *
said that to understand a country's policy, one has only to look
at the map.
If we do
this, we shall see that there is no objective reason for war between
Israel and Iran. On the contrary, for a long time it was believed
in Jerusalem that the two countries were natural allies.
advocated an "alliance of the periphery". He was convinced that
the entire Arab world is the natural enemy of Israel, and that,
therefore, allies should be sought on the fringes of the Arab
world - Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, Chad etc. (He also looked for
allies inside the Arab world - communities that are not Sunni-Arab,
such as the Maronites, the Copts, the Kurds, the Shiites and others.)
Ahmadinejad is not Iran. True, he has won popular elections,
but Iran is like the orthodox parties in Israel: it is
not their politicians who count, but their rabbis. The
Shiite religious leadership makes the decisions and commands
the armed forces, and this body is neither boastful nor
vociferous not scandal-mongering. It exercises a lot of
At the time
of the Shah, very close connections existed between Iran and
Israel, some positive, some negative, some outright sinister.
The Shah helped to build a pipeline from Eilat to Askelon, in
order to transport Iranian oil to the Mediterranean, bypassing
the Suez Canal. The Israel internal secret service (Shabak)
trained its notorious Iranian counterpart (Savak). Israelis
and Iranians acted together in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping the
Kurds against their Sunni-Arab oppressors.
revolution did not, in the beginning, put an end to this alliance,
it only drove it underground. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel
supplied Iran with arms, on the assumption that anyone fighting
Arabs is our friend. At the same time, the Americans supplied
arms to Saddam Hussein - one of the rare instances of a clear
divergence between Washington and Jerusalem. This was bridged
in the Iran-Contra Affair, when the Americans helped Israel to
sell arms to the Ayatollahs.
ideological struggle is raging between the two countries, but
it is mainly fought out on the rhetorical and demagogical level.
I dare to say that Ahmadinejad doesn't give a fig for the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, he only uses it to make friends in the Arab world. If
I were a Palestinian, I would not rely on it. Sooner or later,
geography will tell and Israeli-Iranian relations will return
to what they were - hopefully on a far more positive basis.
* * *
I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war
against Iran will come to regret it.
are easy to get into but hard to get out of.
one to find this out was Saddam Hussein. He thought that it would
be a cakewalk - after all, Khomeini had killed off most of the
officers, and especially the pilots, of the Shah's military. He
believed that one quick Iraqi blow would be enough to bring about
the collapse of Iran. He had eight long years of war to regret
Americans and we may soon be feeling that the Iraqi mud is like
whipped cream compared to the Iranian quagmire.
The above article is published by Gush Shalom.
by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.
He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices
of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Those who want
to help out Gush Shalom can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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