eye on iran blog 88.
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Posted by Jonathan, Philadelphia, USA
An often overlooked question about the Iranian threat is why are they so vehemently opposed to the existence of Israel, and what can that teach us about how to best deal with them?
Iran, unlike other bellicose regimes that have surrounded Israel since its incarnation, is non-Arab and Shi'ite. Iran has never had a modern claim to any land that Israel has ever occupied, and do not house any Palestinian refugees. Except for the recent funding of Hizbullah, Iran had never before gone to war with Israel, not even in 1948.
So why now? First, Israel was a chief supporter, along with the US, of Mohammed Reza Shah, the despised dictator overthrown during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Because Israel was pro-Shah and works so closely with the US, anti-Shah and anti-US sentiment were naturally combined into anti-Israeli sentiment. A major point of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei's speeches was the embarrassingly close relations with Israel (in the eyes of Iran's neighbors), which only made Iran more of an outcast in the Arab Middle East.
This leads us to the main reason for Iran's hatred of Israel: acceptance into the Arab world. If one subscribes to Sam Huntington's viewpoint, Iran is isolated culturally, racially, and historically. Reza Shah tried to imitate Ataturk and force Iran into a European mold, backed by the synthesis of Aryan racial theories, which failed.
Mohammed Reza Shah tried to identify with America and continue to suppress Iran's Islamic heritage by stressing its connection to the pagan Persian Empire, which also failed. Khomenei's revolution has now tried to identify Iran with the Islamic World. The experience of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Pan-Arabism is that the only matter that Arab States have been able to agree on his hatred of Israel, which is why Ahmednijad's has chosen this platform to promote Islamic Unity.
What are the implications of this? First, the fissures in the jihadist alliance of Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran need to be exposed. Sunni Syrians and Palestinians are at best skeptical of an alliance with Shi'ite Iran and Hizbullah. Syria is secular, and Hizbullah operates in a country with a liberal culture that is wary of burkas and sharia. The problems of Arab Unity were ultimately exposed by war (the disunity of Arab armies in 1967), and ended by diplomacy (Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties).
The best way to deal with the current situation is diplomacy with the secular Syrians (spearheaded by the US, who is forcing Syria into the corner of outcasts by refusing to talk to them), diplomacy with Hamas, who is still a greater and more urgent problem than Hizbullah, and action against Iran. If real sanctions are implemented against Iran, and soon, this is the preferred way of testing Iran's mettle. With a desire for acceptance being its only motivation, Iran will be forced to come around, provided that the US will in turn reopen diplomatic relations.
Unfortunately, Russia and China seem bent on preventing real sanctions in order to protect their economic interests. Aside from real sanctions, war is the only option, unless we want to set an example for how rogue nations can gain power and nukes while spurning world order.
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