ME Arabs 'reject' idea of Iran strike

Some see peaceful nuclear program as Iran's right; others say nukes needed to offset Israel's weapons.

Ahmadinejad 224 ap (photo credit: )
Ahmadinejad 224 ap
(photo credit: )
By and large, Arabs in the Middle East "absolutely reject" an Israeli or American strike on Iran or its nuclear facilities and believe the Islamic Republic is being "targeted" for reasons other than its nuclear program, an Egyptian expert on Iran has told The Jerusalem Post. Unlike the US-led Iraq War of 2003, an attack on Iran would likely fail to garner any Arab support and any country that chooses to participate in such a strike would be branded a traitor, said Mohammed Said Idris, head of the Gulf Studies department at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and editor of Iran Digest. "It is considered the right of Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program and it is a legitimate right and there is nothing that confirms with convincing evidence, and especially for the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the Iranian nuclear program is a military program," Idris said earlier this month. Contrary to Israeli and Western claims, Iran denies it is seeking a bomb and insists it has the right to develop nuclear expertise to produce energy. Iran has all but ignored punitive sanctions levied by the United Nations, the United States and Europe and rapidly increased the pace of its nuclear development. Both Israel and the US have not ruled out military action in dealing with Iran. Many in the Arab world believe that Iran's rejection of the State of Israel, its support for "resistance forces" in Lebanon and in the territories and America's support for Israel are the main reasons there has been contemplation of an attack, Idris said. But most Arabs are divided in how they see the issue. One camp believes Iran has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program as guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), for which the Islamic Republic is a signatory, and that the United States and other large powers have an obligation to support her in that right. Iran, they argue, would be less eager to possess a military nuclear program if she was supported in her right to develop a peaceful one, he said. While this camp rejects any Iranian effort to seek a nuclear weapons program, it also seeks to create a nuclear-free Middle East, where Israel, too would ultimately give up the weapons it is believed to have. The other camp believes Iran must pursue nuclear weapons in order to balance out Israel's weapons. They argue that nothing with deter Israel from its "aggressive nature" other than a true balance of nuclear power, he said. "Israel understands that she is not legitimate and that her existence on the land she was established on is illegitimate, and she will store her nuclear weapons and will use American support to impose this existence and to protect it," Idris said, citing a common theory in the Arab world. While Idris could not say which opinion carries the most weight in the Arab world, he said that day after day, "as long as the American and Israeli threats are increasing against Iran and as long as Israeli aggression increases against the Palestinian people," the latter camp will continue to gain popularity on the Arab street. But most in the Arab world, he said, do not consider it likely that either Israel or America would attack since "Arabs know that Iran owns the ways and the means to respond in painful ways" and since American officials have indicated they are unable to wage yet a third war following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Idris said most believe that Israel, too, is aware that she cannot contend with Iran on her own. In recent months, tensions have escalated with military exercises reportedly conducted in both Israel and Iran and strong words exchanged between political leaders. Iranian Deputy chief of staff General Masoud Jazayeri said Saturday that if Israel or the United States should attack Iran, it would lead to another "world war." "It is evident that if such a challenge occurs, the fake and artificial regimes will be eliminated before anything," the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, Ma'ariv reported Friday that preparations for Israeli military action to halt Iran's nuclear program are under way in the event that diplomatic efforts fail. AP contributed to this report.