Rattling the Cage: Follow me, Ahmed

Show us evidence that there's a silent majority in the moderate Arab world that longs to see American or Israeli jets bombing Iran's nuclear facilities to dust.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
It's one thing for Israeli leaders to say their Arab counterparts agree it would be a bad thing for Iran to get nuclear weapons. This makes perfect sense - not only because Iran is mainly Shi'ite and the Arab countries mainly Sunni, not only because Iran is aligned with many of the jihadists who want to overthrow these Arab leaders, but also because they naturally don't want any country in the Middle East to join the nuclear league when they aren't in it. (There are rumors that Arab leaders don't want Israel to have nuclear weapons, either.) However, it's a whole other thing for Israeli leaders to imply that their Arab counterparts agree (though secretly, of course) that if American diplomacy can't stop Iran's nuclear drive, then American or Israeli bombs will have to do it. This seems to be the new selling point in Israel's campaign to stop Iran, and it's pure happy-clappy nonsense. There's nothing behind it other than wishful thinking. Show me one shred of evidence that there's a silent majority in the moderate Arab world, or among moderate Arab leaders, that longs to see American or Israeli jets flying over Iran and bombing its nuclear facilities to dust. Show me evidence of one Arab leader, or even a small minority in the Arab world, that's dreaming of such a day but can't say so out loud. This week Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the AIPAC convention: "The common danger is echoed by Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, it is echoed by Israel repeatedly... And if I had to sum it up in one sentence, it is this: Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons." He's getting a little ahead of himself there. Yes, Arab leaders are very worried about Iran going nuclear, but no, they do not share Israel's determination to prevent it by any means necessary. I know the Arabs can't be trusted, I know they realize that Israel is always right but they just can't admit it, yet for what it's worth, Egypt's Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said in 2007 that the 22 member states were "unanimous in their opposition to a military attack on Iran." If there's a statement, even off the record, from an Arab leader or any influential Arab figure that shows otherwise, I'd like to see it. ACTUALLY, I IMAGINE many Arab leaders might go along with a US attack if that were to be the end of the story - if there were to be no response, no blowback from the Iranians or any other of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims. (I don't think Arab leaders would go along with an Israeli attack even under those imaginary circumstances.) The thing is that there would be a response. There would be lots and lots of blowback - and none of it would be good for moderate Arabs. If the US or Israel, each of which has had nuclear weapons for decades, attacked a Muslim country that was developing nukes of its own, it would turn Iran into the hero and martyr of the Arab/Muslim world. Shi'ite, Shmi'ite - this would galvanize popular opposition to any Arab regime allied with the US, let alone one that had a peace treaty with Israel. (Incidentally, an attack on Iran, even by Israel alone, might turn Barack Hussein Obama into a more hated figure in the Muslim world than George W. Bush ever was.) This delusion that we'll be doing the Arabs a favor seems to creep into Israeli and American minds whenever they're girding for Middle Eastern war. "Don't worry - the folks over there will greet us as liberators. They'll throw rice at us. By fighting the extremists, we'll be strengthening the moderates. The Muslim masses will gain courage, they'll overthrow their dictators and become our grateful allies." This strategy worked beautifully in our wars with the Palestinians, didn't it? Also in our wars with the Lebanese. And look how the war in Iraq won hearts and minds for America throughout the region. No, I'm afraid if the US or Israel bombs Iran's nuclear project, Arab leaders will not applaud. Their regimes will come under even greater threat than they're under now, and they'll be that much more likely to make a move that some of them really have considered, a move that represents the genuine, not imagined, will of many in the Arab world: nuclear proliferation. Israeli leaders warn that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, it will set off a Middle East nuclear arms race, and I think they're right. But the Arab world has always badly resented Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, and if either Israel or its patron America bombs another Muslim country that threatens its monopoly, at least some Arab leaders will act on that resentment - both out of their own pride and in response to public pressure. Either way, whether Iran gets nukes or whether those nukes are destroyed, Israel cannot expect 22 Arab countries or 50-odd Muslim countries to live indefinitely with a situation in which this little Jewish state can have nuclear weapons but they can't. That's the way Israel wants it. It's not the way Arabs want it - not even secretly.