On 3rd September, London’s Sunday Times speculated that Israel has been planning a war against Iran and Syria, following the recent bout of conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The report made a serious and viable claim on Israeli military strategy: “The conflict with Hezbollah has led to a strategic rethink in Israel. A key conclusion is that too much attention has been paid to Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank instead of the two biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the region, who pose a far greater danger to Israel’s existence, defence insider’s say.”
A number of insiders in the Israeli defence establishment clarified the importance of their plan: the significance of Iran and Syria to the Israeli defence force is now above concerns for the Palestinian territories, Iran’s developed nuclear programme represents a heightened threat to Israel, the recent Tehran military pact signed between Syria and Iran in June to defend against Israeli threats is another direct regional threat to Israel, and there has been an ongoing alignment of Hezbollah and Iranian military interests to work together against Israel should the US attempt to intervene in the region. Although I tend to agree with the Times report, and believe that Israel is on the brink of another 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the article was based on a few emaciated bones of contention, which need to be properly fleshed out.
Tel Aviv can be guaranteed to find confident partners in both America and Europe, if a pre-emptive defence strategy were to be initiated against Tehran. To be certain, Israel will find a world of willing countries to support its pre-emptive defence policy against Iran – on 31st August, its Islamic government rejected a joint international request (again) from 15 nations to halt uranium enrichment. The international consensus is that Iran has only sought to enrich uranium for the purposes of creating nuclear weapons. The UN, authorities in Washington and most members of the EU have indicated not only their tense position but also hinted at the likelihood of sanctions on the Iranian government. Whether it be overtly or silently, the US could back a successful Israeli mission in Iran. In fact, Israel would officially prefer the US to lead the military strategy against Iran.
Although it is also clear that Iran was a major state sponsor of Hezbollah arms, Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, has not confronted Iran’s president on the issue since the initial assertion of UN Resolution 1701, fixing the ceasefire peace between Israel and Hezbollah. The fact that neither Annan of the UN, or Javier Solana representing the EU, have not issued diplomatic ultimatums to Iran on its nuclear problem, has concerned many independent nations, trembling at the aggressive Islamic foreign policy of Tehran. However, the only reason that the UN and EU have chosen not to confront the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with regards to supplying arms to Hezbollah is less to do with ignoring the reality of Lebanon in July and more to do with the avoidance of poking the rotweiller with a sharp stick.
Israel’s perception of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme is not equalled to its threat in Europe. Tehran’s nuclear programme is a direct threat to Israel – mirroring Ahmadinejad’s voice “that the Zionist thorn in the heart of the Islamic nations must be removed” – and the direct tensions are peaking for Israeli defence strategists. Chief of the Israeli air force, Major General Elyezer Shkedy, has been assigned to commander of the “Iran front.” A Former Air Force Colonel and Military Analyst, Uri Dromi, told The Sunday Telegraph: “It’s natural that Shkedy is nominated to this role, because the air force is Israel’s only force that can reach and sustain a military operation against Iran.”
If the tensions do rise against Iran, Israel can be confident to find support of its military actions through a variety of independent nations, whether they move with or without the UN. Since Tehran appears to not be declaring its intentions for nuclear enrichment, Europe, the US and the UN must go by the rule of past experience: assume the worst case scenario. Israel can justify its actions simply by demonstrating that Iran has directly declared to wipe Zionist Israel clean off the map on more than one occasion and “we all know” that it is covertly brewing nuclear weapon capabilities behind the backs of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Reading between the lines, Kofi Annan’s words conceal the true concerns of the diplomatic community. Annan reported to the British press that the Iranian leader “agrees with me that she would do everything to strengthen the territorial integrity of Lebanon, the independence of Lebanon and work together for the reconstruction of Lebanon.” This was ‘blanket response’ number one.
Annan also told news agencies, “I have just had very good and constructive discussions with Mr. Larijani [Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator]. As you can imagine we discussed the nuclear issue and many other issues of concern to Iran and to the United Nations.” This was ‘blanket response’ number two.
The European press have grown tired of reporting on Annan’s comments – they are nothing more than characterless civil speeches, concealing the true problem that there is some deeper problem entrenched within the Iranian government that makes every diplomat come over with a cold silence (and therefore, blanket responses). Hence, it seems important to continue to read between the lines of Annan.
Member states have grown considerably apathetic at the fatigued motion of the EU, or more to the point, its governance under the Finnish presidency. In this predicament, the EU backing of a US-Israeli conflict against Iran would inevitably mean a lot more feet-dragging and bickering by European nations. Chirac already criticized Solana for a delayed response to the Lebanon crisis: “Europe was insufficiently active in the Lebanese crisis, although France had recommended on a number of occasions that the high representative be given a mandate to speak out on behalf of the 25 member countries, as he is doing on the Iranian issue.”
Solana rejected the criticism, citing Kofi Annan’s words that the EU responded quickly and efficiently to the UN resolution, bringing a ceasefire to the 34-day war in the Middle East. Some member states have also felt slightly disgruntled after access to Iran’s 21-page reply to the UN requests – requiring an end to uranium enrichment – was limited to the EU-3 (UK, France and Germany) and Solana. Thus, countries such as Italy – which is meanwhile pledging 3,000 troops in Lebanon for the UN operation – will not have access to the Tehran response, apparently littered with criticisms of the IAEA. Although Europe would back Israel, through the channels of the EU, it could only offer a retarded defence force, likely to be accompanied by a major domestic interest in preventing further aggravation of a Euro-born Arab electorate.