This is an incredibly tense time in the Middle East - the Assad regime killing its own citizens in Syria, Hezbollah having amassed tens of thousands of rockets that could be launched at Israel on orders from its patron Iran, Tehran racing toward nuclear capability in defiance of the world, the Muslim Brotherhood increasing in power in Egypt, etc.
The Arab Spring has created great uncertainty rather than pacifying the region. The U.S. has finally brought most of its troops home from Iraq, but Iraq’s democracy is tenuous at best and Iran continues to pull many strings within its long-time rival.
All this uncertainty has made Israel more a target of regional derision. Without the Mubarak regime to pacify Egypt, and King Abdullah of Jordan facing increased pressure to “reform” (aka, allow his country to become more Islamist), Israel is increasingly alone.
However, we know that Israel will ultimately do whatever it thinks it must in order to protect itself. Israel has unsurprisingly told the U.S. it will not update Washington on its actions and intentions. That way, Israel is not in a position of having to ask permission, as well as making it clear that the Obama administration did not give a green light if Israel does launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. We call this having your cake and eating it, too. Diplomacy demands that we cannot openly support Israel bombing Iran, yet we continue to secretly hope they will solve the problem for us.
Israel could face major blowback if it launches an attack, including Hezbollah’s rockets and terrorist cells activated against it by Iran. However, the biggest obstacle may be reaction from the rest of the world and the United Nations. The U.N. is already anti-Israel, China and Russia will never turn against Iran unless it is actually foolish enough to pre-emptively nuke the U.S. or Israel, and Europe has long disliked Israel. The U.S. really is Israel’s only ally, but the Obama administration does not think it needs to make that clear; in fact, in many ways this administration has distanced itself from Israel.
America supports Israel because it has long been a lone Western-style democracy in a region of the world that is characterized by despotic regimes that are unstable and don’t respect human rights. Even with the Iraq “experiment,” we are left with only one real ally in Middle East.
Global pressure continues to mount on Iran and the economy is straining, though help from China and Russia cushions that somewhat. You would think this would make it more difficult for them to justify the nuclear program to the Iranian people, but the threat of military reprisal has kept the population at bay. For there to be a peaceful outcome, the ayatollahs will have to make the calculation that a nuclear program is not worth the costs, or that they won’t be able to placate the people.
I do not see that happening. They look at North Korea as a model - once it got nuclear weapons, the world had to take it seriously in a whole new way. The ayatollahs currently look at the nuclear capability as an insurance card, and a nuclear Iran will face no natural regional counterweight. Russia is an ally of circumstance, and presents no threat. Iraq has been neutered and many of the highest officials are on the Iranian payroll. Afghanistan and all the other “stans” are non-issues. Turkey is surprisingly disengaged. Israel may have to finally come out of the closet on its own nuclear arsenal just to ensure mutual annihilation.
The Iranian mentality is one of pride. They still think they are ancient Persia, the smartest, most advanced, greatest people in the world. Even if they never use the nukes, they will use them to bully their neighbors. They do not care for the West or Israel, and will attempt to act with impunity waving their nuclear Sword of Damocles.
The one hope outside of Israel stopping the ayatollahs is the people of Iran themselves. They made an attempt with the Green Revolution in 2009, but unlike their brothers in revolution throughout the Middle East and Africa, they did not see it through and do whatever it took to overthrow their government. Maybe they will look within themselves and unleash that pride and passion on their own despotic government rather than allow it to set the entire Middle East aflame. It would be a brutal and bloody civil war, but only then can the Iranian people deliver themselves (without Western or Israeli aid) from the evil their fathers inadvertently delivered their sons and daughters into when they replaced a terrible and corrupt shah with a more corrupt, hypocritical, and unjust, theocracy.
c Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book “Reawakening Virtues,” is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.