So What About Iran?


A respected 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 on Iran.

Far-fetched? 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).

What would 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.

Would the 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 started it.

Is there any substance to this leak? Hard to know. But it strengthens the suspicion that an attack on Iran is more imminent than people imagine.

* * *

Do Bush, Cheney & Co. indeed intend to attack Iran?

I don’t know, but my suspicion that they might is getting stronger.

Why? Because 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.

There is 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.

True, the 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.

But, quite 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.

That’s a 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.

* * *

Would this indeed be such an easy operation, a "piece of cake" in American parlance?

I doubt it.

Even "smart" 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.

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. To open the straits (if this is at all possible), the US army would have to capture and hold large areas of Iranian territory.

The short and easy war would turn into a long and hard war. What does that mean for us in Israel?

There can 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.

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.

* * *

If Mahmoud 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.)

This week, 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.

But 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 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.

* * *

Napoleon 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.

David Ben-Gurion 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.)

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.

The Khomeini 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.

Today, an 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.

* * *

One thing I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war against Iran will come to regret it.

Some adventures are easy to get into but hard to get out of.

The last 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 it.

Both the Americans and we may soon be feeling that the Iraqi mud is like whipped cream compared to the Iranian quagmire.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”