Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Israeli Conundrum:
How to Deal with Iran
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, August 5, 2009
Israeli officials face a conundrum that may take more than military
muscle-flexing to resolve: how to deal with Iran? The solution to this
dilemma will require no less than sheer political genius.
be frustrating for Israeli policymakers and their friends and backers
elsewhere to stand idle as Iran openly carries on with its
nuclear-enrichment program, facing nothing but United States and European
chest-thumping and a mere threat of more sanctions, which will unlikely bend
It's doubly frustrating considering the relative
ease that led the US, its timid coalition and Israeli cheerleaders to
unleash a war against Iraq. Alas, those days are long gone. Now, the US is
anxiously cloaking its failure in Iraq by pressing the need to tend to more
urgent battles elsewhere, namely Afghanistan.
Regardless of why the
US targeted Iraq, and why its objectives were not met, Israel's own
calculations were a surprising success, as the Iraqi menace (manufactured or
real) has been eliminated, and the ghost of chaos will likely haunt that
unfortunate country for years to come.
Now, it's Iran's turn. In
fact, it has been Iran's turn for years, but nothing seems to be moving on
that front. If the Iraq experiment were successful, the US would have
definitely jumped at the opportunity to trample Iran, an oil-rich country
with crucially strategic positioning. Controlling Iran would have been the
missing piece of the puzzle that would push the borders of US control and
influence to lock horns, if necessary with the emerging Asian giants, and of
But a US military move against Iran, under the
current circumstances, is no less than military suicide. Iraq has
established the limits of US military capabilities, inspiring the Taliban to
ascertain their own. July 2009 has gone down in history as the month with
the highest causalities among US forces. Deadly July is promising many
repeats as daring Taliban and all sorts of tribal militias in Afghanistan
emerge stronger and savvier than before.
A large-scale US military
attack, and needless to say, invasion and subsequent occupation, of Iran is
simply not feasible. If such imprudence ever actualized, all hell would
break loose in Iraq as well, considering the solid political and sectarian
ties that unite both countries, which also share an infinite border.
This is precisely the source of frustration among Israeli officials, who
have counted on US military generosity to bully Israel's enemies, or, as was
the case in Iraq, to take them down.
Israeli frustration must have
also turned into sheer rage when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once
more brought up the subject of a "defense umbrella" over the Middle East to
shield it from a future nuclear Iran.
"If the United States extends
a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to develop the
military capacity of those in the Gulf, it is unlikely that Iran will be any
stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as
they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon," she was
quoted as saying in a Thai television interview.
reinvention of the defense umbrella idea - introduced in a March 4 report by
a pro-Israeli think-tank, Washington Institute on Near East Policy (WINEP) -
stands at odds with her enthusiastic promise to "totally obliterate" Iran
should it attack Israel, while trying to lure in supporters during her last
year's run for presidential nomination. It seems that the US - despite the
use of threatening language - is edging towards living with and "containing"
a nuclear Iran, but, expectedly, Israel is not.
government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now maneuvering
to entice a tougher US position towards Iran, especially as the recent
internal destabilization of the Islamic Republic failed to deliver. Israeli
maneuvers are both political and military. The Times reported on a quid pro
quo deal where Israeli “concessions” regarding its illegal settlements in
occupied Palestinian territories are to be reciprocated with a Western nod
for an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. "Israel has chosen to
place the Iranian threat over its settlements," a senior European Union
diplomat told The Times on July 16.
That political scheme was
supplemented by a show of force, as two Israeli missile-class warships and a
submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile strike were reportedly
permitted to sail through the Egyptian Suez Canal for the first time. The
unprecedented deployment into the Red Sea was meant as a signal that Iran is
within Israeli range. The message, however, carried perhaps a deeper
political meaning - that Israel is capable of striking Iran with the help of
regional allies. In other words, Israel is hardly the isolated party in this
conflict. More, considering serious US attempts aimed at weakening the
Syria-Iran alliance, the Suez Canal message was even more politically
loaded, although its military value is yet to be determined.
Militarily, things are not very promising, as the highly touted Israeli
military exercise - conducted recently in the United States - registered
little success. Israel called off tests of its Arrow anti-missile system due
to technical problems. The Arrow program, which is half-funded by the United
States, is meant to intercept and destroy such Iranian missiles as the
As the US military option against Iran largely
dissipates, Israel's frustration and worries grow. If Iran is not
neutralized militarily - as the US did Iraq - then a nuclear Iran is a
matter of time. If Israel strikes Iran, there are no guarantees that such an
act - which will certainly harm US strategic interests - will in any way
destroy, or even slow down the Iranian nuclear program.
The US and
its European allies seem out of ideas regarding how to deal with Iran,
leaving Israel with a major conundrum: either living in the potential shadow
of a nuclear Iran, as a long-term regional power, or striking the Islamic
Republic with the hope that its erroneously perceived "shaky" regime will
quickly crumble, leaving the US to pick up the pieces, and the whole region
to deal with the chaos that will surely follow.
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His
latest book is, The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is, My Father Was a
Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).