London, 25 Aug. (Iran va Jahan) The ongoing hostilities between Hizbollah and Israel have shed light on a new reality concerning the inseparable links that exists between issues and players in the Middle East. In recent years, the increasingly direct involvement of Palestinian leaders over matters pertaining to the settlement of their disputes with Israel has inadvertently reduced the confrontational role previously played by Arab states. Today, that deficit is being filled by Iran, a non-Arab, non-Sunni Moslem actor, whose hard-line president has called for the elimination of the state of Israel.
This is a stark contrast to the position advocated by the Arab League and moderate Arab leaders like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who are willing to accord Israel full diplomatic recognition, provided Israel accepts to conclude its negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of its June 1967 borders.
Today, that deficit is being filled by Iran, a non-Arab, non-Sunni Moslem actor, whose hard-line president has called for the elimination of the state of Israel.
But, Iran’s motivation in all these matters is arguably more self-serving. Anxious to divert international pressures away from its own rising domestic problems such as a faltering economy and an appalling human rights record which only last month claimed its latest fatality in the shape of another imprisoned young student dissident – Akbar Mohammadi, who died after a 9 day hunger strike protest against his unlawful incarceration - the Shiite fundamentalist regime in Teheran is currently engaged in promoting a four-pronged assault campaign against the United States and its allies on a global scale. These policies have already succeeded in fuelling greater instability and violence in the Middle East.
The first of these, waged primarily against the US and the “EU3” has to do with the desire on the part of the Iranian regime to join the ranks of other nuclear powers in the world.
This potential, which is now the subject of intense scrutiny by the UN Security Council, is compounded by the fact that Iran already possesses - and can manufacture both ballistic and cruise missiles capable of posing a serious threat to nations as far away as Israel.
If left unchecked, aided and abetted by technology imported from such countries as Russia, China and North Korea, Iran could much sooner than expected have the capacity for altering the existing security permutations by acquiring the capacity for aiming nuclear weapons and the means for delivering them to major capitals in Europe.
It is to avoid such a scenario that significant offers and concessions have been made to try and persuade the Islamic regime from pursuing such a policy. Yet, so far these efforts have failed to achieve their desired result and some form of confrontation between Iran and the Security Council in the coming months is now imminent.
The second front against the US and most ostensibly the UK is being pursued in Iraq, where the aim of the Iranian regime is nothing short of a complete and humiliating US-UK withdrawal from that troubled country.
By providing substantial assistance of all kinds to their hard-line Shi’ite and Sunni allies, in unison with Syria through unchecked borders, Teheran has been able to enhance its own position in Iraq by promoting insecurity and mayhem to the detriment of most Iraqi citizens.
While Iranian officials have often shed crocodile tears for the suffering people of Iraq and spoken of the need for constructive progress, those cries have hardly been matched by the actions of the Revolutionary Guards or their local mercenaries who have pursued an opposite agenda in fuelling the current insurgency.
The third front being promoted by the Iranian regime, as part of its overall campaign against the US and Israel in the Middle East, is in Palestine, where its long standing ally, Hamas, is now in charge of the Palestine Authority. Having openly supported all Palestinian “rejectionist” groups since the Oslo Agreement of 1993, and having played their part in sabotaging the Camp David II peace talks of 2000, the Iranians are now the clear beneficiaries of a totally chaotic situation that has come about as a result of the marginalization of moderates on both sides. Moreover, until such time that Iran’s negative role in obstructing the peace process on the basis a “two state solution” has been seriously curtailed; all expectations are that the current situation can only become more exacerbated.
The fourth and final campaign being waged by Iran is the proxy war in Lebanon against Israel. There is no question that without Iranian (with Syrian cooperation) financial support, military training and hardware, Hezbollah could never have embarked on such a military campaign against Israel. Indeed, not until such time that this intense military/financial association between Iran and Hezbollah has ended, will either Israel or the Lebanese government be able to come to some sort of a peaceful arrangement free of external interferences.
Hezbollah’s feisty resistance coupled with assertions of “disproportionate response” exercised by Israel in places like Qana have also played into the hands of Iranian inspired radicals in the Islamic world
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s feisty resistance coupled with assertions of ‘disproportionate response’ exercised by Israel in places like Qana have also played into the hands of Iranian inspired radicals in the Islamic world, by turning Hezbollah into heroes and infuriating world public opinion even further against Israel.
It is therefore obvious that until such time that proper attention is focused on neutralizing Iran’s negative role in all these scenarios, no meaningful change is likely to take place no matter how many innocent people lose their lives in places like Gaza, Lebanon or Israel. ENDS HEZBOLLAH IRAN 25806
Editor’s note: Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari, a former Iranian diplomat, is a Senior Research Consultant in the London based Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies.
The above article was posted on 24 August 2006 by the Paris-based “Iran va Jahan” (Iran and the World) website.
Highlights and some editing are by IPS