Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Israeli Plot vs. Iran: Historical Background

This 1993 article by well-known but now deceased Israeli thinker Israel Shahak, astonishingly pertinent today, has, I suspect, slipped from the memories of most readers. In the context of Norman Finklestein's characterization of Israel as a "warmongering...crazy state," note the quote near the end of an Israeli nuclear specialist advocating a foreign policy of nuclear terror and how Israeli paranoia links Palestinians and Iran.

With Iraq Neutralized, Israelis Seek Catalyst for War With Iran

By Dr. Israel Shahak

Ever since the spring of 1992 there has been speculation in the Israeli press about how best to cope with the threat of Iran, now that its neighbor, Iraq, is no longer a threat to Israel, nor a barrier to Iranian expansion. In one scenario, Israel would use its considerable military power to attack Iran alone. In another, Israel would use its considerable political and media power to "persuade" the United States to do the job.

The indoctrination campaign to prepare public opinion in Israel for the task is gaining steadily in intensity. In February 1993, detailed media discussions of how Israel best can neutralize, or totally eradicate, the Iranian threat reached a peak of intensity. Following are samplings of recent articles suggesting means of "persuading" the West to attack Iran.

"Iran Needs to be Dealt With Just as Iraq was Dealt With," is the headline over a Feb. 19 article by Yo'av Kaspi, the chief political correspondent of the leftist Al Hamishmar. The article contains an interview with Israeli military strategist Daniel Leshem, introduced as "a retired senior officer in military intelligence, and currently a member of the Center for Strategic Research at the Tel Aviv University."

Leshem maintains that although allied air raids on Iraq did little to destroy its military, and especially nuclear, capabilities, because of the allied ground victory U.N. observers can finish the job.

Pursuing this "analogy," Leshem declares: "The state of Israel alone can do very little to halt the Iranians. We can raid Iran from the air, but we cannot realistically expect that our aerial operations will destroy all its capabilities. At best, we could destroy some Iranian nuclear installations in this manner. But we could not possibly reach them all, not even all of their major centers of nuclear development. That development has proceeded. . . in a decentralized manner, with installations and factories scattered widely across the country. It is reasonable to suppose that we will never know the locations of all of the Iranian installations, just as we did not know those locations in the case of Iraq."

Leshem therefore proposes "to create the situation so that it will appear similar to that of Iraq before the Gulf crisis.''

Leshem then lays out a detailed plan to accomplish this:

"Iran claims sovereignty over three strategically located islands in the Persian Gulf. Domination over those islands is capable of assuring domination not only over all the presently active oil fields of the area, but also over all of the natural gas reserves not yet exploited.

"We should hope that, emulating Iraq, Iran will contest the claims of the Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia over these islands and, repeating Saddam Hussain's mistake in Kuwait, start a war. This might lead to imposition of controls over the Iranian nuclear development program exactly as it did in Iraq.

"This prospect is, in my view, quite likely, because the Iranians lack patience. But if, nevertheless, they should refrain from starting a war, we then should take advantage of their involvement in the Islamic terror which already troubles the entire world.

"Right now, Israel has incontestable intelligence that the Iranians are about to resume the kidnappings. We should take advantage of this by explaining persistently to the world at large that, by virtue of its involvement in terrorism, no other state is as dangerous as Iran.

"For example, I cannot comprehend why Libya has been hit by damaging sanctions, to the point that all sales of military equipment are barred to it, only because of its rather minor involvement in terrorism. By contrast, Iran, with its record of masterminding terrorism against the entire world, remains scot-free of any such sanctions. "

Leshem attributes this lamentable state of affairs to Israel's neglect of its public relations (called in Hebrew hasbara, i.e. "explanation"). He nevertheless hopes that Israel soon will be able "to explain to the world at large" how urgent is the need to engage Iran militarily.

Provoking Iran into launching a war is also the theme of a Feb. 12 article entitled "Iran is an Existential Threat" by Ya'akov Erez, the editor and former military correspondent of the right-wing daily Ma'ariv. Ma'ariv is currently owned by Ofer Nimrodi, the son of Ya'akov Nimrodi, who before the fall of the shah was Israeli military attache in Tehran. The senior Nimrodi, who had cultivated extremely amicable relations with the shah and some of his high-ranking officials, is the same Israeli who later was so deeply involved in the Irangate scandal. He was one of those who persuaded the Reagan administration to permit Israel secretly to sell U.S. arms to Iran, while the U.S. publicly was supporting Iraq in its war with Iran.

Contrary to Leshem, Erez claims that not only the Iranian nuclear power, but also its conventional army, whose present size he describes as "having no limits," poses "an existential threat" to Israel. Erez proposes that Israel "persuade the U.S." to enforce an embargo on exports of weaponry and other industrial goods to Iran from any source.

"If really persuaded, the U.S. Navy could hopefully blockade even North Korea," Erez suggests, and thus prevent the latter's sales of lethal weapons to Iran. This could be done, Erez believes, "without particular difficulties."

Prospects for Success

The prospects for success of the entire strategy, according to Erez, are based upon three factors. The first is that "Iranian messengers are reaching every spot in the world in order to foment what they call a 'silent revolution,' " with the effect of "encouraging terror everywhere" and "inviting potential terrorists to their centers and actually training them there."

The second factor is that the Iranian threat to Gulf oil resources "is really far greater than that which was caused by the invasion of Kuwait." This, Erez writes, is "because all Arab Gulf states, and therefore the sources of Western oil supplies, would be exposed much more directly than they were at that time. It would no longer be a case of invading a single state and seizing its oil fields, but a direct threat to all of the immense area of the Arab peninsula and to the freedom of navigation in the Gulf."

The third factor, according to Erez, is that a war against Iran need not be difficult. "A military attack devised to nip the Iranian threat in the bud must have firm foundations in an alliance with the genuinely progressive Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates," he writes.

The Ma'ariv editor sees a war with Iran as the key to solving Israel's problem with the Palestinians. All their opposition to "the peace process," meaning the limited autonomy plan being advanced by the government of Yitzhak Rabin, has no basis apart from the Iranian influence on them, says Erez, parroting the official line the "experts in Arab mentality" have advanced since Rabin's expulsion of 400 Palestinian Muslims.

The defeat of Iran, according to Erez, will calm the Palestinians down. This mirrors current thinking in Israel. Rabin even has attributed the outbreak of the intifada solely to Iranian and Libyan incitement, thus laying down an official Israeli government line still being pursued.

In the same issue of Ma'ariv, Telem Admon reports that "a senior Israeli," i.e. a senior Mossad agent, "about two weeks ago had a long conversation with the son of the late shah, Prince Reza Shah Pahlavi," presumably in order to appraise the man's possible usefulness for the Israeli hasbara. In the "senior Israeli's" opinion, "Clinton's America is too absorbed in its domestic affairs," as a result of which "the prince's chances of reigning in Iran are deplorably slim.

"The prince's face showed signs of distress after he heard a frank assessment to this effect from the mouth of an Israeli," Admon writes. For his part, "the senior's" appraisal of the prince was distinctly negative because "he reveals how nervous he is. His knees jerked during the first half hour of the conversation." Worse still, his companions "were dressed like hippies" while the prince "kept frequenting Manhattan's haunts in their company and addressing them as if they were his equals. "

The "senior Israeli" deplores the fact that the prince has distanced himself from the beneficial influence of his mother, "who had done a simply wonderful job traveling from capital to capital in order to impress upon everybody concerned her hope to see her son enthroned in Iran while she still is alive." It is not clear from Admon's article how Empress Farah's impressive efforts will be affected by no less impressive efforts of the Israeli hasbara, which apparently already has written off her son.

The Question of Nuclear Weapons

What might happen when or if both Israel and Iran have nuclear weapons? This question is being answered by the Hebrew press at length, often in a sensational manner intended to exploit the anticipated horrors of nuclear weapons wielded against

Israel. Al Hamishmar of Feb. 19 carries an interview with an Israeli nuclear expert, Prof. Shlomo Aharonson, who links Israeli fear of Iranian nuclear weapons and fear of a Palestinian state. He excoriates the Israeli left as a major obstacle to Israel's ability to resist Iranian machinations. Disregarding the left's current lack of political clout, Aharonson declares:

"The left is suffused with prejudices . . . It rejects rationality on the nuclear issue. The left abhors nuclear weapons, period! The opposition of the Israeli left to nuclear weapons invites comparison with opposition to the invention of the wheel."

Not content with such profundities, Aharonson then proceeds to his own "scenarios." Here is just one of them:

"If we tomorrow establish a Palestinian state, we will be granting sovereignty to an entity second to none in hostility toward us. This entity can be expected to reach an immediate nuclear alliance with Iran.

"Suppose the Palestinians open hostilities against us and the Iranians deter us from retaliating against the Palestinians by threatening to retaliate in turn against us by nuclear means. What could we do then?"

After much more in this vein, Aharonson concludes: "We should see to it that no Palestinian state ever comes into being, even if the Iranians threaten us with nuclear weapons. And we should also see to it that Iran lives in permanent fear of Israeli nuclear weapons."

"Expert" opinions and predictions such as those quoted in this report may strike non-Israeli readers as fantasy run amok. Yet, mendacious and deceitful as these statements obviously are, they are politically significant. Each person quoted is a respected Israeli expert or commentator on strategic affairs and is well acquainted with thinking inside the Israeli security system.

Since militarily Israel is the strongest state in the Middle East, and has a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region, the strategic doctrines of its security system cannot be ignored, especially when they are forcefully impressed upon the Israeli public. However one feels about it, Israel is a great power, militarily and politically, by virtue of its steadily increasing influence upon U.S. policies. Whatever the validity or the motivations of the opinions emanating from the Israeli security system, their importance cannot be ignored.

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