Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Iran - Destabilizing the Arab World, Threatening The World

Ever listen to a TV debate that gets out of hand? All the argument, logic, ideas etc get lost in the noise. People watching feel a surge of emotion toward the 'side' they favor and the result may be a polarization of ideas that might not have existed had their been an open honest debate instead of an angry argument.

In the hysterical ravings of the Iranian state, the 'reasoning' of the situation seems to have been lost in fears of the building of Iran's nuclear capability and its egregious antisemitism. When did anyone on the media stop and consider context in all of this? Why exactly is Iran saber rattling and provoking conflict with Israel? The two countries do not share a border, and Iran is not even an Arab state, so what is in it for them?

I don't claim to be an expert on Iranian politics, but living in Israel  I have tried to understand why Iran has such a need to provoke Israel. It has long been known that the Islamic regime wants to spread its influence as far as it can, but it has had to overcome some serious barriers to that ambition: The traditional distrust, even racism, between the Persian and Arab world was a a huge wall the ayatollahs have had to get passed; In addition Saddam's Iraq was the cork in Iran's bottle, keeping a lot of resources of the Iranian genie trapped and focused on their dangerous foe. Once George Bush had removed that enemy, Iran was freed from imminent danger, and really begun to spread its influence.

The Islamic world is deeply divided, full of hatred, violence even war, but there are certain areas of agreement - hatred of the US & the West and hatred of the only western state in the Middle East, Israel. As I said above, Iran share's no border with Israel  so instead it has slowly gained influence in those countries that do: Its primary ally in that regard has been Assad in Syria (obviously of diminished use these days). Additionally Iran funded the Hezbollah terror army, who have virtually taken over Lebanon, creating their own private, superbly equipped army in that country, even replacing the legitimate Lebanese army along Lebanon's long border with Israel! Iran has also supported and armed Hamas, who control the independent Palestinian enclave in Gaza. 

This Hamas takeover of Gaza, funded by Iran,  essentially stole from the Palestinians the opportunity that Israel's unilateral withdrawal had presented: A stable Gaza producing economic growth and improved standard of living would have shown the world what a Palestinian state might look like. It would have put Israel & the Palestinians  under enormous pressure to negotiate a settlement in the West Bank, that might well have led to full Palestinian independence. That scenario did not fit with Iran's policy of gaining influence in the Arab world - after all the western interests would have been for any peace between Israel & Palestinians to last, which means that Hezbollah destabilizing the situation would not have been tolerated. So instead, funded by Iran, Hamas made a grab for power, throwing out the PA from Gaza, and essentially declaring genocidal war on Israel. Not good for Israel, not good for Palestinians or the region, but definitely good for Iran!

However, a pan Arab agreement that 'Israel is bad' is not enough of a platform for Iran to become a dominant influence in the Arab world - that would take hatred of western values: democracy, education, gender equality, freedom of speech and so on. Iran invested years in taking over and developing the Islamic Brotherhood, creating infrastructure and grassroots support in several Arab states, waiting for, or even creating the catalyst for the inevitable overthrow of Arab  dictators. The power vacuum the Arab Spring created opened the door for Islamists to gain legitimacy and power - the greatest example of the success of this policy is of course Pres. Morsi in Egypt, which this week pays host to Iran's Pres. Ahmadinejad. The influence of Iranian backed Islamists can be seen a cross the Middle East. remaining Arab heads of states stare nervously at the Islamists, alternately  appeasing or oppressing in what is more often than not a futile effort to stamp out Iran's influence in their country.

Iran is a state staking its future on standing as the leader of the Arab world, creating an international block the west will find it hard to ignore. We need to remember that the Ayatollah's founded their country in hatred of the west, (you only have to watch Argo to be reminded of how this country felt about the US at its outset), and that feeling has deepened into the country's psyche. I don't believe that Israel matters to Iran in any meaningful way aside from deep rooted antisemitism - what threat would Israel present to that country? - no, Israel is a tool for Iranian ambition, and of course an outlet for the anger that suppression of the Iranian people has created. The US & its allies must block these decisively, because make no mistake, if Iran is successful, the repercussions worldwide will be no less significant than the communist takeover of Russia or Hitler's becoming chancellor of Germany.

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