Middle East

Iran vs. Israel, Part Two

(Photo: Benjamin Haas, Shutterstock)

"Given the popularity of the country's nuclear program among many Iranians, any strike against Iran's nuclear sites would generate nationalist enthusiasm and automatic support for Iran's leadership. Given the bleak prospects the West faces vis-à-vis Iran's nuclear program, the best scenario is the so-called 'diplomatic solution.' It means that the world should accept an Iranian peaceful nuclear program, but make sure that it is under strict supervision," Associate Professor Ali Omidi of Isfahan University said in his recent analysis of Iranian nationalism and its nuclear program.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan holds a similar rationale: An Israeli strike would unite Iranians behind the current regime. Besides which a strike would only delay nuclear technology, said Israeli Intelligence analyst Ronan Bergman. Hardly reassuring conclusions when you consider the authority of Iran's governance is generally predicated on enmity, especially against Israel and the West. And Israel plays the same tune. The problem is that it has been played over and over by their different regimes for so long, neither state these days seems capable of abiding in peace. Warfare seems to resonate within the theocratic psyche of both states, compounding political defense with residual animus. Israel may point the finger at Iran's nuclear development, but much soul searching on Israel's part could well be required to chart a new direction.

According to Iran's Khatam-ol-Anbiya Air Defense Base, for example, the latest war games are designed to up Iran's preparedness in the face of military threats, military threats that Israel keeps espousing.

Addressing the root cause

Standard diplomacy may not be enough to chart a new course. Would military interaction? The root cause of their contention runs deep. They both rely on a fusion of religion with politics to justify state power. Both states have exalted their belief systems to the exclusion of progressive understanding per se and systemic forces forming between them state-wise. Unlike the Pacific nations with nuclear technology, these two states remain rooted in ancient rivalries of divine authority in the Middle East. Both consistently denigrate and deny each other's authority on the world stage. Defining a common enemy against which to unite has become the mantra of both. Their nationalism all too often arises from warfare rather than international achievements.

In sum, with such a vast history of conflict between them, military strikes would likely feed their dynamic of warfare and a need for greater defense systems, nuclear or not. They would exacerbate the root cause of the crisis.

Charting a new direction

Without a political framework encompassing mutual energy concerns of regional and global import, Iranian nuclear technology could always be taken as contentious. The intent is inevitably in doubt—their word always suspect, which must surely be a grave failing for any theocracy. And to date no political framework covering both Iranian and Israeli state concerns exists in the Middle East. Neither Iran nor Israel is a member of the Arab League. Iran gravitates in the SCO framework towards Russia and China. And Israel hangs unilaterally in the region, by its strategic ties with the United States.

None of which is resolving the situation. In fact, the alliance of the United States with Israel is apparently contributing to the problem. Professor Omidi contends that Washington's current policies are inflaming Iranian nationalism. If so, continuing with them would compound their patriotic right to such power, and a determination to continue down the nuclear road. If that's the case, these policies are adding fuel to the fires of theocratic rivalry and sectarian allegiances, rather than any geopolitical accord.

"The naval fleet will prove that enemies' sanctions against the Islamic Republic have neither hindered Iran's scientific progress nor decreased the country's military capability," Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the Iranian navy chief, said on the two Iranian ships now docked in Syria. "Provocative," said Israel.

Far from diffusing the situation, military threats and economic sanctions against Iranian nuclear technology have strengthened Iran's nuclear resolve. Suffering is ingrained in the Iranian spirit. Martyrs are revered. The phenomenon, however, is potentially manifest. Theocratic rivalries have always been politically motivating in the Middle East. In one way or another, the Israeli and Iranian discord has always affected regional stability. Accordingly, current policies against Iran could now be exacerbating Middle Eastern turmoil.

The general terrain is fraught with covert allegiances and varying degrees of defense assistance. Take Syria. "The vast valley region has become an operational base for Syrian rebel fighters and weapons smugglers. ... Lebanon is one of the main sources for arms," Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Capper said. Professor Jubin Goodarzi of Webster University Geneva notes that Iran now exports arms to Syria and helps finance Syrian arms purchases from Russia, Belarus, North Korea and elsewhere. He writes that the Syria-Iran alliance is primarily defensive in nature. All of which seems to be the norm for state relations in the Middle East.

Whether military apparel is made in Israel, Iran or the United States, whether weapons are traded from China or Russia, the industry has steamrolled out of control in the Middle East, fuelling one conflict after another. Defense industry is devoid of true regulation on any level: local, geopolitical or international. Defense industry surely culminates ostentatiously via nuclear technology, but the greater unseen mass of this problem with Iran is defense industry per se. Nuclear technology resembles the molten tip of a rumbling volcano, in my estimation. Iran, for example, isn't bound as an NPT signatory to provide access to its military sites. It is not simply the nuclear rise of Iran that is the problem in the Middle East. Root causes to Israeli angst over Iran and any international concern stem from theocratic rivalries of Israel and Iran and manifest defense systems within the region.

An open framework of across-the-board regulative authority addressing state defense industries is elemental to any basis of systemic accord between Israel and Iran. From that basis the effective regulation of nuclear technology is foreseeable in terms of general sustainability. The global realities of energy and climate change are now relative concerns of all states requiring systemic action beyond religious differences.

In this respect three key areas stand out for constructive dialogue with Iran and Israel with reference to the international community: energy security, collective security and Syria. Addressing them may eventually realise a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In the meantime, the process of facing common goals and winding back defense between states has the potential to chart a new direction in the Middle East.

Peter Jenkins, former British ambassador to the IAEA, cogently pointed to a positive future in regard to current obstacles. "To me it seems a very remote possibility that Israel will agree to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state," Jenkins said. "So a Middle East 'Nuclear Weapon Free Zone' is a fine goal but irrelevant to current nuclear non-proliferation needs. Better, therefore, to conceive of a sub-regional zone covering all the states that abut the Persian Gulf."

Part one of Laurelle Atkinson's analysis is available here.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Laurelle Atkinson.