Tel Aviv 28 Aug. (IPS) As election time in the US and Israel draws nearer, the public discourse regarding the "Iranian nuclear threat" has intensified. Both candidates for the US presidency, and a few of those who would like to win become the next Prime Minister of Israel, reach higher peaks with every declaration, presenting Iran as a live bomb and an immediate threat to world peace. Indeed, Iran is not a paragon of virtue. Its aspirations exceed by far these that were described in the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which turned around a previous assessment from 2005.
Iran is a regional player which undoubtedly aspires to leave its mark beyond the realms of the Middle East. It wishes to take the Arab world and Islam through a process of "Shi'itization" (namely, pushing away the Sunnis and turning the Shi’a to the main and ruling stream of Islam). The president of Iran embraced an unrestrained rhetoric, backed by intensive activity of enriching uranium - an activity that may allow, by the beginning of the next decade, the production of fissile material for nuclear bombs.
One of our basic handicaps in the US and in Israel is the fact that in our assessments and decision making process we apply only our logic and way of thinking..
Longing for the days of the Old Persian Empire, Iran currently develops long-term ballistic missiles, capable of launching nuclear weapons. These activities reveal that Iran's intentions exceed the evaluation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which appeared on its much-awaited report of Iran monitoring activities. The report was sent to the IAEA members on February 22nd 2008.
Why does Iran invest resources and efforts to develop nuclear capability? Why does Ayatollah Ali Hoseini Khameneh’i, Iran's "Supreme Leader", who is the head of the political system, and holds the superior power in the state and determines its internal and external policy, joined by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both, together and separately, not without many controversies, do not spare efforts to appear as the world's "bad boy" and resemble the warmongers of the area, defined as the "Axis of Evil?".
One of our basic handicaps in the US and in Israel is the fact that in our assessments and decision making process we apply only our logic and way of thinking, without trying to refer to the cultural differences and natural codes. This was one of the reasons why we in Israel did not read Sadat's signals and even messages-- ready for negotiations --at least a year before the tragic war of Yom Kipur (October) 1973.
I have served in Iran, and dealt a lot with the "Iranian case" for years. I even stayed there during the last days of Shahpour Bakhtiar, the Shah’s last Prime Minister, and even few days after Khomeini's return from exile. I witnessed people's excitement and relief -- passage from pro-occidental monarchic regime to a theocratic republic, and the extinction of the Pahlavi dynasty.
Besides the cheers of the crowd, who hoped for relieve from the burden of an old oppressing regime, the longing of ministers and generals for a guidance and advise from Washington was striking—"please tell us what to do after The Shah has gone!". However, Carter's administration turned its back on them. It was a hard blow to many in Iran, for whom the revolution wasn't a heart's desire, and perceived it as a process that went out of control.
I was in Iran at the begining of the revolution
During my service, a great part of the main responsibility was relations and cooperation with friendly intelligence services. This included meetings and dialogues with Arab and Middle-Eastern leaders. I have learned a lot from these leaders – at times, more about us than about our enemies. I realized how much their relations with us are considered by them as a sense of security – for them personally, as well as for the stability of their regimes, assuming this is our interest as well.
Shi'ite Iran doesn't present a threat only to Israel. Iran applies threats as a way of uniting its different internal groups, and as a simple method of recruiting the masses. Iran threatens the stability of the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries. Iran is not a part of the Arab world and the Arabs do not conceive it as a partner to their interests. Iran doesn't have any regional allies: besides the Hezbollah, a large group of the Hamas in Gaza, that acquires Shi'ite religious symbols, and Syria - that facilitates between both sides.
The Iran-Iraq war is merely one example of a historical clash between Iran and an Arab country. (In fact Khomeini, when he took over, stopped the development of Iranian nuclear capability) "it is not Gods creation", he said.Iraq –Iran war made the change.
Iran fears Israel much more than Israel fears Iran. In the eyes of Iran, as well as the Arab countries, Israel is most powerful force in the Middle East politically and militarily. The Iranians strive for attention, and almost overtly claim: "Restrain us, lest we obtain nuclear capability". The US, as well as Israel, from its own reasons, once again turn their back to Teheran.
It is a serious handicap with us, not only with regards to Iran. Since the "Beirut Declaration" of March 2002, we have not been open and ready for real negotiations) the Beirut Declaration, reaffirmed in 2007, is an Arab League / Saudi initiative meant to restructure the region around an Arab-Israeli peace. )
Shi'ite Iran doesn't present a threat only to Israel. Iran applies threats as a way of uniting its different internal groups, and as a simple method of recruiting the masses.
Two weeks ago, an inter-religious encounter between Islam, Christianity and Judaism was held in Madrid. The convention was initiated by none other than the king of Saudi Arabia. Once again, the Saudis is taking the initiative. More than six years after Saudi Arabia's presentation of a far-reaching peace initiative, which included recognition of Israel in its 1967 borders, and was approved by the Arab League, and nearly six year after President Bush included this proposal in the "Road Map", Saudi Arabia once again raises its initiatives. This time trying the religious domain, after the disappointment it has experienced on the international political field.
A window of opportunity is currently open – perhaps wider than in the past --, due to the anxiety of the Arab countries for their stability, facing the extreme Shia's threat. The Arab countries fear Iran, but Iran fears Israel as well. Instead of frightening Iran and the Arab countries even further, we have to recognize the common interests. The gun and the missile are not the only source of security. Negotiations can as well help bring security. Maybe it is time to temperate the intensity of rhetoric regarding Iran's nuclear activity, pushing it towards committing unreasonable deeds. Readiness to negotiate could be an important message to all those in Iran who suffers from the extremism of their President. ENDS NAVOTH ON IRAN-ISRAEL 28808
Editor’s note: Mr. Nachik Navoth is a former deputy head of MOSSAD, the main secret, espionage and counter-espionage of the State of Israel.
He contributed this piece to Iran Press Service
Highlights and some editing are by IPS