Anti-Israel bombings not casus belli

Suspicion that Iran is responsible for bomb attacks on Israeli embassies are no more - or less - credible than suspicion Israel has assassinated a number of Iran's top nuclear scientists. True or not, they should be pause for thought, not cause for war. 

It is no surprise at all that Israel has blamed Iran for the bombs targeting Israeli embassies in New Delhi and Georgia.

Where it does become difficult is assessing whether Israel will consider suspicion of Iran as casus belli for launching its desperately wanted attack on the nascent nuclear state.

Let’s face it, if suspicion of a targeted killing is the new bar for war, then Israel’s highly plausible role in bombing – and killing – Iranian scientists over the past few years would give Iran the green light for repeated attacks. All evidence to date is Iran has restrained from avenging the assassinations its scientists and the ‘mysterious’ cyber attacks which severely damaged its nuclear project.

Of course the United States with its policy of taking out anyone it, as self-appointed global judge and jury, considers unworthy of breathing, would, under such a doctrine be consistently under fire.

All three players – Israel, Iran and the US are trading threats and provocations, and the concern is each is potentially reckless enough to go past the point of no return – as they have all done in the past. Think unilateral declarations of war, targeted assassinations, ‘pre-emptive’ invasions, occupations, hostage takings, civilian and political opponent oppression.

A few days ago Israel’s Netanyahu gave possibly the best advice on the issue of Iran – he told his politicians and military officials to “stop blabbing” about the possibility of an Israeli attack.

But the blabbing has continued and has revealed significant points of difference between war hungry Israeli politicians who are doing a damned fine job of whipping up fear amongst their own citizens, and their traditionally unquestioning backer, the United States.

The major difference revolves around what Israel’s Defence Minister calls the atomic ‘immunity zone’ – that’s the point at which Israel would not have the capacity to destroy or significantly derail Iran’s nuclear project.  In other words, a point too far for an effective military strike.

Israel says that point is fast approaching. The Americans, not so much. American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has however said he believes Iran is within a year of being capable of reaching nuclear weapons capacity, and others have suggested Israel will go it alone with an attack in the northern hemisphere spring.

Great. We have had the Arab Spring which Israel has completely ignored and learned nothing from, preferring to stick to its (erroneous) claim to being the only democratic state within the Middle East. Commentary on the Arab uprisings regularly talks now about the Arab Winter given the continued unrest in Egypt, Libya and other places.

Well democracy takes time as countries which have had hundreds of years to develop as such should recognise. However an Arab Winter will be mere pocket lint if compared to the fallout of a regional Nuclear Winter courtesy of Israel going all pre-emptive on us.

There are massive sanctions against Iran which Obama has, unlike previous US presidents, convinced the European Union to join. These are obviously biting. As per usual it is the everyday civilians who hurt the most with food prices soaring, salaries dropping, the Iranian rial in free-fall and the rise of black marketers and illicit currency traders.

The idea is to make the population and the military turn on the regime, which should, if the theory of such sanctions goes according to plan, come under a second line of attack from a divided political elite and eventually succumb, paving the way for a new, Western-friendly, secular government.

Trouble is what often happens is the protected elite get on with the business of making money out of shortages, generating huge profits on the backs of those who struggle to pay for basic food and medicine to keep their families going. Money-makers have no interest in regime change and perpetuate the unintended consequences of sanctions and corruption as was seen in the horrific child mortality rates thanks to the sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime.

The other fly in the sanctions ointment is a potential nationalsitic backlash against sanction perpetrators.

Israel may be concerned about the immunity zone, but Iranians may also be adamant that they are beyond the point of no return with their nuclear development and a regime that is seen to back down in the face of Israeli and US-led pressure would be weak. So, the people and the regime dig in their heels and soldier on with the help of China and India who are not scared to buy Iranian oil.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN has in the past couple of days described his country’s pursuit of nuclear energy as an “inalienable right”, and while it will engage in negotiations with the so-called 5 plus 1 group (US, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany), it will not negotiate over its right to nuclear energy.

Iran wants to negotiate without preconditions. Israel should be familiar with that negotiation precondition!

As has been said many times before on this issue, Iran with no nuclear weapons is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet Israel with its stash of an estimated 300 nuclear weapons is not. Israel’s hypocrisy on this point does not make it any more palatable for Iran to be a nuclear weapons state – if indeed that is what it is seeking to be. But it does make a mockery of Israel’s oft-stated ‘right’ to defend itself pre-emptively in order to stop a sovereign nation having what it has.

Israel may be right in assessing the Islamic Republic as off its rocker and dangerous even though Iran has never invaded another country. Israel would do well to be aware that many of Israel’s neighbours think just as highly of it given its refusal to abide by numerous UN resolutions, oppression of the Palestinians and being held hostage to the dictates of far right religious parties crucial to the survival of Netanyahu’s coalition.

It is also ridiculous for Israel to argue that if Iran goes nuclear then other states in the region will want to be nuclear capable too, thus rendering Israel just ‘one of the crowd’ in the Middle East.

Israel’s bluster – or perhaps bluffing – on the issue of Iran does not excuse terrorist attacks on its civilians or diplomats in any part of the world. Nor does it give Israel the right to blame Iran or its proxy Hezbollah without proof, any more than Iran can blame Israel for the terrorist attacks on some of its brightest citizens.

The New Delhi and Georgia attacks expose the vulnerability of Israeli citizens anywhere in the world, as is regrettably the case for citizens of any state involved in controversial domestic and foreign policies.

Israel has been warned that an attack on Iran will have dire consequences. These latest bombings are nothing compared to what could happen. Even if Iran or Hezbollah are behind these recent bombings, the acts must be treated as pause for thought, not cause for war.